Tim McCarthy and the Business of Good

Newsletter: How are Your Bones?

Jun 1, 2009 12:45:00 PM / by Tim McCarthy

Great organizations are built on fundamentally solid foundations – otherwise known as “great bones”. [more]

As expected, Joe Cistone, CEO of International Partners in Mission, was a smash hit at our semi-monthly TBOG Forum last week.

I introduced Joe by telling our audience that IPM is the "poster child" for what we do at The Business of Good foundation. We search for non-profits who have:

  1. A great mission, focused on building self esteem among the very poor;
  2. An entrepreneurial leader - someone who has vision and ambition and is open to change; and
  3. A collaborative spirit.

Joe, and his wonderful board and staff at International Partners qualify on all three counts. The last one interestingly is the hardest to find among traditional non-profits but that's an article for another day.

The topic of this article are the "bones" of a non-profit, something Joe said he looked at closely in 2001 when he was considering a job offer from this 35 year old organization.

Joe said an old organization -profit or non-profit - is like an old building. That is, whether the outside looks good or bad, we should look most closely at the infrastructure (the "bones") underneath its skin before we decide whether the building is a good investment.

In IPM, he says he found a building with great bones.

It was founded by two caring Lutheran missionaries who believed that giving, even in extreme situations of poverty, must be personal and a two way street. No late night television commercials for these guys.

In addition, and unlike missions at the time, they believed that successful missions ignore borders. Those borders include distance, faith, culture and economic privilege.

These missions of IPM remain clearly stated in their website www.ipmconnect.org. And these are the "bones" Joe must have seen.

Joe also figured IPM had some other good bones - such as the fact that the founders and their families are still involved and demonstrate high energy for the mission. And best of all, their board includes these folks and is open to constructive change.

So Joe started working on IPM's "building" and so far, has helped them build their capacity from $250,000 in annual revenue at that time to almost $2 million today.

In the spirit of the forum, Joe centered on these last eight years so that all participants could then dialogue about what we might apply to our own organizations. Covering all Joe discussed would make this article too long so I'm attaching his slides and Joe will be glad to hear from you if you wish to know more.

We are also working at getting Forum presentation videos onto our own website www.thebusinessofgood.org so soon you'll be able to see the whole pitch.

In the meantime, I wish simply to leave you with the questions I brought home about my own organization's bones:

  1. Are we still centered on our original mission? Or have we unwittingly fallen into "mission creep" as everyone from labor unions to United Way to General Motors seems to have done?
  2. Do we model the characteristics of our founders and therefore have the same type of people in leadership roles that created our early success?
  3. Do they - and we - seem willing to change with the times as needed without sacrificing our original intent?

The thing I love best about doing The Business of Good - both the website and the forum - is that all the information we collect gives me food for thought for my own organizations and for my own life.

I hope you find it the same as you are checking the "bones" of your organization.

Tags: Mission, Newsletter, Organizational Assessment, Leadership

Tim McCarthy

Written by Tim McCarthy

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