By Bob Phillips
“Après moi le deluge” (after me the flood) — the famous quote from King Louis XV of France should not be part of the mission statement of a nonprofit.
Yet very few agencies have prepared themselves for the flood of problems that will surely swamp them if they don’t have a plan on how to replace their leadership when the inevitable time of transition comes.
One of the less-known and even less-acknowledged facts about the leadership of nonprofits, especially in a retirement area like Southern Arizona, is that it is aging, rapidly. About two-thirds of all nonprofit leaders are planning to leave their jobs in the next five years. Informal interviews with a sample of Green Valley nonprofits suggests that the figure is conservative as most local leaders plan to be doing something else or nothing else five years from now.
In an area that relies on committed and talented volunteers to carry the bulk of the work of its nonprofit agencies, it must be noted that most of these volunteers and the staff members who depend on them are themselves older with a diminishing will and ability to carry the load of their agency’s programs. It is one thing to hire and/or recruited staff and volunteers in their 30s or 40s who will be around for a long time, and quite another when your labor pool is mostly stocked with folks in their 60s and 70s and beyond.
So – back to succession. How does a nonprofit recruit and retain its leadership and workforce in a retirement community? Some suggestions:
•Do not rely on too few for too much – breakdown and burnout are at the end of that path.
•Limit your program aspirations and agency goals to your available and renewable resources.
•When you are recruiting new board members, look for some that are new to the community (meaning that they haven’t already gotten involved in a lot of activities) have nonprofit management experience and look like they will be around for a while.
•Recruit and utilize interns from the high schools and colleges with community service programs of nearby communities like Sahuarita and Tucson. As those communities are a reasonable commute, perhaps they will provide your future leadership.
•If you have had an executive director who was the founder and/or has been with the agency for a long time, consider hiring a temporary executive director (who doesn’t want the permanent job) to help you figure out what you want in the future that will necessarily be different than the past.
•Consider sharing leadership positions by dividing up responsibilities so that one person doesn’t carry the whole load.
•Work with the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation’s Nonprofit Learning Institute to develop and adopt a succession plan that would contain the elements listed above.
At the end of the day, preparing for the future of your favorite cause is the best way of ensuring that it will have one.
By Bob Phillips May 14, 2017
Amid all the furor about the border, migration and national security, one fact remains constant, especially for Green Valley – the one thing that Mexico will never be is far away. With Mexico literally next door, would it not seem timely for Green Valley to examine its future through a cross-cultural, bi-national lens?
• Mexican shoppers spend $7 million to $8 million a day in Arizona, and outside of the White Elephant, very little of that is spent in Green Valley.
• There are 11 universities, 100 major manufacturing plants and over 400,000 inhabitants in Nogales, Mexico.
While Tucson, Phoenix, Nogales and other U.S. towns and cities market aggressively in Mexico and work to build civic and commercial connections with colleagues across the border, Green Valley is sorely lacking in such connections. The exception to this is the growing number of private citizens and nonprofit agencies, many times spearheaded by Green Valley churches, who have made contacts with Mexico, often through the unique cross-border tour program run for the last six or seven years by the Tubac-based Border Community Alliance and its Mexican partner, FESAC.
In the article I wrote in March on change coming to Green Valley, I suggested that if Green Valley was to attract new residents and progress it would have to adapt to the changes and lifestyles personified by the next cohort of retirees, the Baby Boomers – children of the 60s and 70s, America’s historically most disruptive generation. I suggested that nonprofits, those necessarily nimble organizations born out of innovation and schooled on surviving on scarce resources, could be the agents of change needed to build a sustainable future for Green Valley. The responses I received from the article were mostly a pushback against changes in Green Valley as it is now. To be expected and not where the conversation should end.
So, let me tie together the two parts of this discourse by suggesting that the future of Green Valley, at least part of it and perhaps the critical part, will depend on whether Green Valley and not just its social activist elements, embraces and exploits its proximity to Mexico. Baby Boomers, looking to stay socially engaged and intellectually stimulated, will be much more attracted to an active adult community that is substantially engaged with the exciting and rapidly growing country 45 minutes away rather than one that is not particularly diverse and lacks meaningful connections with its dynamic neighbor to the south.
Given the fact that the current educational offerings in Green Valley, with a few notable exceptions, are pretty much devoid of any reference to Mexico and could well be found in any Midwestern or Florida retirement haven, it seems that the one truly unique asset of Green Valley, its geography, lies largely fallow and underutilized. The beginnings of change in that orientation and of the creation of a unique and mutually advantageous relationship between Green Valley and its cross-border neighbor can be seen in the many Green Valley participants in cross-border tours and volunteers to Mexican migrant care centers and social service sites. In this time of toxic politics where our interdependent economic and social relationship with Mexico is imperiled by a flood of fake news and potentially perilous policies, the simple act of reaching out across the border as neighbors can provide a nonpartisan model of collaborative community building. Can Green Valley be the catalyst for that change? Does it want to be?
Nogales, Sonora, has a young and entrepreneurial population dealing with challenging social and economic development issues while Green Valley is a rich resource of mature life and professional experience and an irrepressible volunteer culture. Is there not a match here?
Take one of those cross-border tours with Border Community Alliance and/or connect with one of the local nonprofits or church groups already deeply engaged with counterparts in Mexico. Green Valley does not and cannot exist in isolation. When so much of its past has fixated on looking north, is it not now time to turn south? For more info on the Nonprofit Learning Institute of the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation and its training and service programs or to make a comment, contact: NPLI Director Bob Phillips via email.
By Dan Shearer, Editor, Green Valley News
It’s the kind of book you pick up and read for a few minutes then put down and think about. You’re not sure if you put it down because you needed to digest what you’ve just taken in or because it challenges you to your core, and you’re just not in the mood to feel uncomfortable. You never really come to a conclusion, but one thing is sure: You’ll pick it up again. Because you know it’s good for you, even if it hurts. That’s about the best way I know to describe “The Legacy Letters” by local author Carew Papritz. He published the book in 2013, and it hit a nerve. Years later, it’s still riding high — national awards, media interviews and lots of speaking engagements. It’s philosophy, common sense and passion dumped into a big bucket of good advice and hard truth. And don’t forget to throw in some forgiveness. The story is fiction, but you’ll forget that in the first few pages because you’ll figure out that you could have written it yourself. It’s the story of a man who divorces, finds out his ex-wife is pregnant with his twins, and decides to write his children letters about life after he learns he’s dying of cancer. His words are his legacy, and who doesn’t want to leave a legacy?
That’s the jumping off point — legacy. Not only what you’ll leave behind for those yet to come, but what you are doing now — a living legacy —that defines you. By now, most of us have figured out that career, wealth and name-dropping might make us more intriguing, but they don’t define us. Legacy goes a lot deeper, and often we don’t have it nailed down until we’re way beyond raising our kids, finished our careers and are deep into retirement. Papritz helps us figure it out because his message now comes with a simple assignment: Write a letter. He knows a lot of us are scared off by the prospect of putting pen to paper, so he lays it out clearly and succinctly. For example, with Valentine’s Day close at hand, Papritz helps us to write that most important of letters—a love letter. Take no more than five minutes to do it. Address it to a specific person — Dear “xxxxx.” List three things that your sweetheart does for you every day, and show gratefulness. Seeing words on a page prompts change. It’s gets us to thinking about what’s really important to us rather than just what’s expected of us. It speaks to who we are rather than who we’d like people to think we are. Sometimes it hints at who we want to be, and that’s not so bad, either. But words — words on paper — are important. So that’s your assignment. Get out a pen (not a computer) and think about your legacy. Not only in terms of death, but in terms of how you live now and what you want to do about it going forward.
Think about the things that have meaning in your life, and write them down. Maybe it’s music, animals, children, God. What are you passionate about? What holds your attention? What are you invested in because you wouldn’t be complete without it? What deserves your time and talent? Where does your money go? What do you care about?
Three things that say, “This is me.” Write them down. With honesty and clarity. Because this is the gift of what you believe and how you have lived to share with others. Your kids, grandkids, friends, relatives. Because words on paper are real. And you can hold them and pass them on to others. What’s ahead In coming months, we’ll be talking about legacy, future, and what you can give to your community in a series of columns by the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation. We’ll hear from Bob Phillips on Wednesday. He’s the director of the Non-Profit Learning Institute, and they think about legacy a lot. The goal is to get us thinking about what’s important to us and how we can support that now and in the future. The goal also is to drag us out of our comfort zones, see value in shaping the future, and making concrete and significant changes regarding our roles in and around Green Valley — and our responsibilities to others. So get cracking on the assignment, then read what Bob has to say Wednesday and in coming months as we all work toward the legacy of a better Green Valley.
EDITORIAL: Non-profits can help feed the soul By Bob Phillips
Jan 18, 2017
Who’s building the future? Or maybe the real question about the future for Green Valley is how long can anyone — you, me — pursue leisure or recreation without feeding your soul? An often-ignored fact is that the constantly sought after “active adult life” too often leads to depression, drinking, an emptiness. All of us are sustained, whether we acknowledge it or not, by our community. Thus we have an obligation to the place where we live. Ask yourself, what was your goal for coming here? How do you get real fulfillment from this time in your life? Our nonprofit organizations offer us the tools to find the answers.
In the past, helping a neighbor was the way we lived. Then we knew our neighbors as we had grown up together and shared triumphs and tragedies. That time is gone but the need is not. Into that void steps the nonprofit agency. They fill that critical human need to help others, to protect our children, our seniors, our environment, to be a meaningful part of our community, to make a difference.
How do we get involved with the plethora of local nonprofits in Green Valley? That’s easy. Figure out what it is that you have to give, what you are interested in, and what you want to learn, then call the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation at 520-625-4556 and ask which is the best fit for you.
And while we consider how our nonprofits sustain us and our community, it is fair to ask how do we sustain them? Donors and funders of nonprofits always want to know if the nonprofit that they are helping with money or volunteer time can be sustainable once the money and the volunteer go away. May I suggest that one of the biggest myths about nonprofits concerns sustainability. The fact is that most funders to nonprofits want to give money for only one to two years, and demand that the recipient agency prove that it can become self-sufficient, i.e. not need more money from them, by the end of that period.
Myths are monsters best slain by facts that point out the obvious to the previously oblivious. While we all realize that a business becomes more successful (sustainable) when it sells more stuff or provides more services, we tend to overlook the fact that as a nonprofit becomes more successful in providing the services it was created to provide, its costs go up while its revenue stays the same because it isn’t making a profit. That’s why we call them nonprofits. Success equals more clients, more staff and more expenses without proportional increase in funding. Get the picture? So, once you and the nonprofit that meets your need to serve, to be useful and fits your interests, stick with it for the long haul.
Once there are no more hungry or poor, no more lonely and sick, no more threats to our environment or schools that need supplies or teachers, then you can get back to that life of leisure and recreation, that active adult life that you thought you came here to get. I bet you’ll find another nonprofit to help.
Bob Phillips is director of the NonProfit Learning Institute of the Greater Green Valley Community Foundation.
For more information on its training and service programs or to make a comment, contact him via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org