All posts by Dan Charobee

Putting It All Together

Dan Charobee

Dan Charobee

After working every day, on projects, programs, and services; enhancing, developing, starting-up, recovering and repairing, it’s really appreciated when it all comes together. Even though sometimes it’s only for a short period of time or until the next challenge.

onstructing, maintaining, and deconstructing are continuous processes in the lifecycle of your organization’s and your development. Smart executives, managers, and involved staff recognize that continuous education, professional and personal development is the nature of success today. Along with networking with colleagues, associates, and funding authorities; executives look at the entire situation and step back to see where everything is heading.

The expansion and contraction that cyclical growth patterns provide is usually not addressed. Just take the Cash Cow, Rising Star, and Dead Dog scenarios that Boston Consulting named in their detailed matrix. Applied to funding, projects and programs can be classified as Rising Stars, Cash Cows, and Dead Dogs; indicating how they develop, grow, and sometimes become more effort with no return. But here is what is not covered.

When cash cows start to turn down you will experience inevitable contraction. You can deny it, only to be faced with it later. The same thing happens when rising stars start becoming cash cows. You’ll see a gross program, personnel, and cost expansion. Identifying and shedding dead dogs is one of the hardest because they carry a quantifiable sunk cost conundrum. “We sunk all that money, effort, and time. How can we just walk away?”

Contemporary scenarios show start-up, development, growth, and decline time lines depicting internal and external factors including changes in communications, technology, and expertise.

The cusp of a new (calendar, fiscal, or program) year is always the point to recognize our successes and failures; where we currently stand; and what we can do to enhance the future. The further into the future you look, the more effective your plans can be. As you look at 360 degree, SWOT, and program analyses; or develop strategic plans; step back and look at your vision and mission. It’s your compass and barometer, telling you how close you are to reaching success.

Sometimes a new perspective is the best answer,. Whether it comes from an out-of-house professional consultant, coach, or mentor, or a new executive director or board chair; new perspectives can focus the entire organization with significant gains.

Author:  Dan Charobee, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Having an Effective Board Strategy- Chair Positions

Dan Charobee

Dan Charobee

You are trying to keep the board focused, increase revenues to add or maintain services, and putting out fires. If only you could clone yourself. Maybe there is a better way. A very effective strategic technique utilizes board chairs to meet an organization’s mission. Think of them as multidimensional tools that influences all of your stakeholders.

Comparable business strategies use vice presidencies to focus resources, revenue generation, and expertise. Taking a strategy from their play book is smart on three levels. First, it adds to the growth and expertise of your organization. Second, it rewards and enhances the position of the chair person. Finally, it gives a specific board member a title; giving them access to higher management levels in other organizations.

Here’s what to consider when setting up an effective chair:

  • Will they be paid chairs? A chair can carry a direct donation or a responsibility for a specific level of funding.
  • Will they be expertise chairs? Getting a board member with a specific level of expertise in your field can be a strong draw to additional expertise directly in your organization and to developing long term funder relationships.
  • Will they be relationship chairs? People with contacts in a specific area, such as prominent corporations, government agencies, and financial institutions can broaden an organization’s footprint in the community.
  • How will the chair be promoted (marketed)? Creating a board chair is something to talk about. It is also something that you can include in your public relations and marketing. Your new chairperson would be happy to let their contacts know about their new position.

Practical considerations include:

  • What is the chair’s term of service? Having fixed time frame provides the opportunity to review and make changes as needed.
  • How will they be qualified? This says how and who will review their credentials and appointment. 
  • What are their responsibilities? You can describe the position as developmental or oversight, and any specific duties.
  • Who will they report to? This is the time for an organizational plan.
  • What authority will they have? You decide the authority of the chair position.
  • Who will they represent? A chair can be a great ambassador for the entire organization or a specific program. 

Finally, reiterate that all chairs serve at the direction of the ED and/or board and according to your bylaws.

 Author:  Dan Charobee, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Capitalizing-As Important to a Nonprofit as Your Program is to its Beneficiaries

Dan Charobee

Dan Charobee

When you capitalize a company, you either put in your own money or OPM (Other People’s Money); when you capitalize a nonprofit, you put in your own or other people’s money, time, or effort. I met with a director recently that came from a prominent business sector position and started a nonprofit that solves a service delivery problem for a larger national organization. After a period of time, they were running into the problem of having critical program managers leave due to lack of funds for establishing adequate payroll.

It is not surprising to hear that this founder was looking to go back to the business sector to personally make ends meet. When I asked whether the program provided enough benefits to continue to exist, “absolutely” was the response. The program had been gaining in funding, was becoming recognized by funders and donors at a growing rate, but was in jeopardy because everyone was an unpaid volunteer. And, while they were dedicated, they leave to find work that supports them and their families.

Having worked with international, national, and regional nonprofits, I found that a very large segment of the workforce is in the nonprofit sector. The sector, not only provides valuable services, but also provides employment to many people.

So, here is my personal story about capitalizing an organization, project, or program. In a leadership program, I was challenged with starting a local program for an international organization. The basic challenge was to get members – all either paid or unpaid. I chose unpaid, thinking that payment would be a hindrance and focused on quality member prospects. I went after the best and brightest, knowing that they would draw others along with them. My first reality moment came when I talked to my best prospect and said “we could really use you in this organization”. She proceeded to open her purse and brought out her checkbook. I learned a lot after saying “I don’t want money, I want you.”

She said that she loved the project, but had the money, not the time. We all feel it is easy to ask for help and think about the physical act of helping. At the same time there are so many people and organizations that want to help that have the funds, but not the time.

Author:  Dan Charobee, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

I have been asked this question: How can an organization’s vision be used strategically?

Dan Charobee

Dan Charobee

I am presenting a program Executive Directors that focuses on vision and strategy, so I raised the question to a worldwide group of over 14,000 professionals, educators, and executives specializing in strategic planning for nonprofits. Here are excerpts from the best of the responses that I received:

A good vision statement identifies why others outside your organization should care about what you do. We usually start by using the organization’s vision to help us identify the places we should look. Dell’s original vision was: “A world in which every human being has access to a computer”–an inspiring aspiration and legacy to be sure, but it also served as Dell’s linking point to other organizations– government entities, nonprofit or for-profit organizations–that shared that vision. Disney’s vision is succinct “To make people happy.” Their mission is “To entertain.” This broadened vision has led Disney into the cruise ship business as well as multiple other business ventures. S Worth, President Plexus Consulting Group

The greatest value of a vision is for the internal team. Once staff understand the vision – it helps them really understand what they can say “yes” to and when they have to say “gee, we don’t do that – at least for now” to. They really can be experts and not have to come back and ask their boss for permission to do something that really doesn’t fit. No vision – no strategy. Without a vision, all you have are to-do lists. L. Schoelkopf, Principal & CEO, Chasing Maybe

A vision is just that, something you can see! Imagine our vision at Project Unity for Life, “to stop the revolving door of incarceration”. Strategically, imagine a revolving door, how would you stop it from revolving? G Morris, Owner, G and G Consultants

(Find the) best strategy to reach vision with the assets at hand.
Share the vision.
Tweak and redirect the network into a cooperative movement toward the vision.
Strengthen existing drivers and develop additional new drivers where needed.
Produce sustainable resources for growth and development.
Empower the network with the ability to build.
R Cremeans, ED, Freedoms Way Foundation

I feel it is fruitless to create a strategic plan unless you have a clear Vision that everyone supports and embraces. M Lattman, Strategic Planning and Organizational Effectiveness Consultant

How would you answer it?


Author:  Dan Charobee, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Seeing Eye-to-Eye with All Levels of Management

Dan Charobee

Dan Charobee

No matter what your position, you can do more for yourself and your organization by knowing when to push, how hard, and how much.

The best, most innovative, and successful people that I’ve worked with have developed an instinct for this, the most prevalent characteristic, of personal and organizational growth traits.

Here is how it works:

When:  This is a trial and error trait.  All of your senses are required -including your political, social, and management personality sense. Just like cattle in a pasture successfully test the electric and barbed wire fences, you need to successfully test your timing, tempo, and approach. Small testing efforts, as in broaching the subject or discussing concerns and new ideas; usually work best.

How hard: Hard enough, but figure that you will probably need multiple tries – each more detailed than the last. Think four to five tries. As usual, always document your efforts.  Right now, email and organization communication systems work great (a caution – if you are documenting a breach of ethics or a personal grievance, you need to look at other options).

How much: This involves reading other people and managers as well as new and ongoing situations. It is a good instinct to develop. Something proposed to one person at one time may not work due to factors including interpersonal relationships, internal or external pressures, and other priorities of the organization’s strategic plan.

Keeping track and authenticating: This involves building your case and being able to defend it. It may mean having a grasp of accurate facts and figures and examples of success. It can be as simple as maintaining a file folder with clippings and correspondence or a digital one in your inbox or desktop.

Be prepared to take on a bigger role: In most instances, the development of a new program or positive change in the direction of the organization is a rewarding part of working there. At other times, decision makers look to people that are passionate enough about a proposal that they look to them to develop or oversee it.

Appreciate your success. Ever notice how many of the heroes in today’s media more often than not are surprised to receive the recognition they get. Good managers give credit where it is due. Great leaders at all levels of an organization, grow profoundly from accomplishing meaningful change.

Author: Dan Charobee, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Navigating the CFC

Dan Charobee

Dan Charobee

The largest fundraising campaign resulting in individual contributions is about to kick off. It is the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). Last year the campaign resulted in over $250 million in payroll contributions, sought after by nearly 25,000 nonprofits. Nearly $5 million was generated in Orange and Riverside Counties. If your organization participates, this is the time to plan and here are the top ten ways to reach your CF donors:


    2. Give them your number. Post your CFC 5 digit number everywhere during the campaign – on your emails (at the bottom below your signature is an excellent place for your CFC # and your 25 word description.
    3. Give them you web address. Use links to your About Us or Contribution Area of your web site.
    4. Tell them what you do. Include your CFC#, your organization name, and what your do – the 25 word CFC version (or a brief re-write if necessary).
    5. Tell them how to find you. Include your web address, phone #, CFC #, and email address and pay attention to changes in responses.
    6. Put your number everywhere. Sept. 1st to Dec. 15th is a short window to link you to the CFC and your number. Use this time wisely. Repeat CFC participants usually continue to have the same number. You cannot say how to donate to your organization often enough.
    7. Do extra things to reach the press. This is a great time to send out your press releases to news, radio, TV, cable, and publications. Some get additional ad revenues from nonprofits and are looking for more human interest stories to fill time or space. Include your CFC # and info in the “About Us” section below the release.
    8. Create a community. Look for groups that meet at or include large federal agencies to do speaking or presentations about your services. Develop connections to the movers and shakers there.
    9. Extend yourself. Volunteer to give a presentation from your specialty area to organizations or at events.
    10. Follow through. If an agency or organization invites you to present or participate, remember to do your best to meet their needs and get your organization’s mission across.
    11. Thank them. These donors usually participate annually and can be a strong repeat funding source, growing each year as you get better recognized.

Author:  Dan Charobee, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Send Out the Minions

Dan Charobee

Dan Charobee

I recently talked to a colleague that made a radical career change to an organization he would never have considered previously.

He said that while the new job was a lot of work, they were really well organized.  “Did you know that they are the largest in the country? Did you know that they really get to know each and every client? Do you know that they have a system that keeps track of every transaction and you can see how well you are doing?”

He became a minion for the organization and the cause, saying “wouldn’t you like to be associated with us?”  It made me want to learn more about them.  It said that their management thinks through their operations and has long term strategies to meet their mission and succeeding for everyone: the organization, their clients, and their supporters.

Each of us understands the inherent benefits of comprehensive policies and procedures. They not only give guidance on how people are to work, but they also give your organization character and culture.  In the case of my colleague, it adds esteem to his position.

With well defined policies and procedures, an organization can send out its minions to achieve great objectives and enhance your mission.  Remember, your minions are you and everyone your organization touches.  They are the worker bees, the managers, the volunteers, the funders, and your clients.  Each carries a message about what your organization does and how people can participate.

Are your minions aware of your organization? Does it have clearly defined processes that are understood and part of day-to-day activities?  Are they reviewed as situations change – the addition or change of persons handling the process; the addition or change in funding partners; or the changes in the environment that the organization provides services?

Minions change everyone’s perception about an organization.  If you want examples, just think about many businesses and organizations that a few years ago were thought of as “hauling garbage”, “flipping burgers”, and “computer nerd.”  Companies have taken these and others and made them into “waste management”, “grill chef”, and “technology expert.”

All of this is done by looking at your processes and developing well defined policies and procedures that relate to your objectives and finally to your mission.  Then you can send out your minions.

Just What Are You Trying to Say?

Dan Charobee

Dan Charobee

Large organizations have the benefit of marketing groups and professionals that develop well thought-out communication campaigns, guidelines, and Policy and Procedures manuals. Individuals and small organizations work through a learning curve. Here are a few tips on how to beat the curve.

Remember “You get 10 points for showing up”? It is also true in getting exposure for you and your organization. Professional revenue generators know that talking to people at an event usually starts a relationship with benefits (the revenue, organization and career building kind). Also remember; you lose 10 points for outlasting everyone else in the dialog. 

Learn to question and listen. People say what is important to them. Reinforce things they said that correlate with your message. Develop your “when to ask” skills.

When is the best time to follow-up? Now – because you never really know unless they specifically ask for a timed follow-up.

In today’s world of constant communication, making your message fit the medium is as important as your message. If you charted the methods used most frequently, you would see changes in popularity over the last decade. But, sometimes you can get more impact with a media used less often.


  • Face to face – putting a face to communications not only makes it more personal, but also more trustworthy. 
  • Small group – great way of getting a collective decision or information in front of people that pass it on to others creating a wave of information.
  • Large group – there is a mantle of authority that is assumed of the person presenting to a large group.
  • Phone- once the mainstay of communicating it is integrating with other systems including video conferencing and digital voice and video messaging.
  • Letter – almost on the bottom of everyone’s list, a well written letter still gets major attention. Most are accompanied by a digital version emailed.
  • Email – now used for almost everything from short messages to proposals and contracts.
  • Text – quick messages for those running late, needing a fast response, and information.
  • Tweet – the new response mechanism to events, people, and places.
  • Social Network Group – like minded people gathering electronically.

A final note on content is that some types are particularly good or poor in conveying drama, urgency, humor, and information. Think before you finalize your message.

 Author:  Dan Charobee, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Telling a Compelling Story

Dan Charobee

Dan Charobee

Powerful stories can advance your mission and enable others to share your vision. Ann, the ED of a Family Resource Center brought a picture to our planning meeting. It was of a child in a complicated wheel chair made up of knobs, rests, and the intricate structure required to assist him in his everyday life. All eyes were riveted on the photo. You could hear a pin drop in the room while we all thought about his situation. Then she began. “He is the happiest child you ever want to meet”.

Ann proceeded to talk about his personal growth, his smile, and the sparkle in his eyes. Her stories were of his joy, excitement and experience as a child in the program. She could have asked for and gotten anything from us that she wanted.

The magic of the human experience; overcoming tremendous physical, mental, and financial obstacles; is so compelling that it opens hearts, minds, and pocketbooks. Added to an “ask” along with “what we need” can keep the hardest numbers person to move from being a roadblock to funding. This enables them to become an advisor on how to “make the numbers work”; providing a door opening for an organization.

So, how do you make the best of this concept? Ann asked me to coach her through a presentation before a County Supervisors meeting. She was to follow the presentation of another organization known for their strong business presentation skills and comprehensive research and numbers analysis.

I advised her to go with her strengths. So, after the agency completed the exceptional multi-media presentation that was everything that she feared, Ann began by giving everyone in the room a rock.

A simple, smooth stone with an “S” painted on one side and a “C” painted on the other. While we held the stones, looked at the letters and sometimes rubbed them like worry beads; she told stories of children and families passing through the Center. She talked about the “S” and the “C” which were part of the name of the Center, but also about other powerful concepts they utilized that also started with those letters.

Yes, she included the numbers, but I think most people forgot them or used them to calculate resource usage like they should be used. We remembered the people that the Center was helping.

Ann’s organization received everything it needed.

Author:  Dan Charobee, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Best Practices

Dan Charobee

Dan Charobee

It’s morning. You walk in, and “BAM”, there it is. Someone did something that will shape your day, week, month; even year. And, it’s not in a good way. So, you begin as a firefighter, with damage control, thinking “how could this have happened”?

Having recently worked with an exceptionally gifted executive going through damage control, I found the OneOC presentation by Jennifer Farr, CPA, MBA of Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C, listing Best Practice Policies Disclosed in Tax Return so compelling that I wanted to share them with you:

  • Executive Compensation – Board reviewed comparability data (compensation survey)
  • Conflict of Interest Policy – including procedures for determining whether a conflict exists; Require directors, officers, and key employees to disclose potential conflicts annually
  • Fundraising Policies – ensuring solicitations meeting federal/state law requirements and solicitation materials are accurate, truthful, and candid

They come from, of all places, the Tax Form 990 that 501(c)s fill out each year. And like most questions on forms, they are answered and forgotten until next year. Jennifer put them in her Best Practice pocket and so should you. She consults nonprofits on finance and tax issues; hinting that they represent major red flags possibly launching an audit for organizations that don’t meet better standards. This can be a painful and possibly status ending experience for an organization.

Making them an integral part of your culture avoids most fires that take you off mission for an uncomfortable time period. So, outside of your finance office, here is the list of relevant questions:

  • 12a Did the organization have a written conflict of interest policy?
  • 12b Were officers, directors, or trustees, and key employees required to disclose annually interests that could give rise to conflicts? 
  • 12c Did the organization regularly and consistently monitor and enforce compliance with the policy? 
  • 13 Did the organization have a written whistleblower policy? 
  • 14 Did the organization have a written document retention and destruction policy? 
  • 15 Did the process for determining compensation of the following persons include a review and approval by independent persons, comparability data, and contemporaneous substantiation of the deliberation and decision?

Each, in itself is a developmental concept well worth the time and effort, making sure your organization stays on mission. Combined, they may make you less of a firefighter, but a better overall service delivery agency.

Author:  Dan Charobee. Executve Coaches of Orange County.