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Leadership Training Series (video): Episode 8 of 21 - Authentic Passion (part 4 of 7)

Updated: Apr 24

Learn how to turn "lip service" passion into "authentic passion" at your nonprofit in order to create a "Get it Done!" do something, I'm in, culture. Specifically, learn about how to turn the "idea" of work and service, into a culture of work and service. It's time to create a work matrix to accomplish the work of the organization and the board. And to create an systems of accountability and praise.

Intended Audience:

Executives, Board Members, Staff.

About the Series:

Welcome to my Nonprofit Leadership series "How to Build a Gold Standard Nonprofit."

Whether you're a seasoned executive director, or new to the nonprofit world, this video series of 21 videos will give you a set of tools and principles (and good reminders) that will help take your staff, board, organization, to the next level of performance and impact.

The videos are short. There is no mumbo-jumbo theory, just wise advice and practical tactics you can use and apply immediately. It all comes from though lessons I've learned while building eight nonprofits over the last 20 years.

I'll be sending out one video a week. For those who want to binge on the series, or if you missed an episode, you can find them all (and more) on my YouTube Channel -- The Nonprofit Mentor.

Save These Videos

Save these emails in a folder and send them to staff once a week. Or, show one or a two at every board meeting. You can even use them when on-boarding staff, board members, or volunteers. Enjoy and Learn!


PS: You can read more high-quality leadership content in the bestselling books below. (50% off)

by Tom Iselin

“America’s Best Board Retreat Facilitator”

Hi, and welcome to First Things First. This is Day 8 of Boot Camp—A Leadership Guide to Building a Gold Standard Nonprofit.

On Day 7, we continued our discussion of authentic passion. I discussed the tactic of “clear sense of purpose” and why it’s essential if you want to know where to go, and what it is required to get you there.

Today, I’m going to share with you the tactic of “work and service” – also known as “engagement.” Let’s assume you’ve updated your mission, vision, and purpose statements. Terrific! Everyone says they understand the big picture and your intent, and everyone “claims” they’re committed to helping because they’re “passionate.” What could be better than that? But now what?

Well, it’s all still “lip service passion” until commitment becomes manifested in work and service. So, the next step to developing authentic passion is to transform the idea of work and service into a culture of work and service—a culture of “ENGAGEMENT.” This may seem obvi­ous, but we’ve all seen our share of disengaged board members, lazy staff, and irresponsible volunteers. Lot’s of talk, and little action, Right?

If you expect people to be engaged and “work” at your nonprofit—and you should—they need to know what to do, why they should do it, and how to do it. This sounds elementary, but you would be surprised how many nonprofits fail to have a single defined job description for its staff and volunteers, or a detailed roles and responsi­bilities document for its board members. The result is apathy, confusion, and poor performance.

If you’re serious about building a gold standard nonprofit—a “DO SOMETHING” nonprofit—you need to determine what work needs to be done, and then identify who is available to do the work, based on everyone’s time, skills, expertise, and availability.

To do this, create a “work matrix.” Start by identifying what “work” needs to be done. List the work in rows in the matrix. Then, across the top, list the names of people available to do work. Now, based on people’s time, ability, willingness, and availability, complete the matrix.

This is a simple and useful exercise to get your nonprofit thinking about how to accomplish the work it must do. Your chief executive and managers can build a simple matrix like this for each functional area of your nonprofit including operations, pro­gramming, fundraising, and volunteering.

Your board can use a similar matrix centered on the responsibilities and tasks its members are expected to fulfill. Once a matrix is built, it can be expanded to include “how” people should do their work, and “when” their work is due.

This all seems rudimentary—almost obvious, doesn’t it? But if it’s so easy and fundamental, why do so many nonprofits, have such noncha­lant work cultures? Why do so many nonprofits have so many disengaged board members, aimless staff, and fruitless volunteers? It’s because most nonprofits operate un­der a veneer of lip service pas­sion, not authentic passion.

I suspect your hope for each person connected with your nonprofit is to feel that his or her commitment is making a difference to help your non­profit fulfill its mission and purpose.

Transforming this hope into reality will require your management and board to see to it these commitments—through work and service—are de­fined, and that people are held accountable and praised for fulfilling their commitments. When commitment mani­fests itself in action, when peo­ple roll up their sleeves and work, authentic passion thrives.

If you want to create an authentically passionate culture, a “DO SOMETHING” culture, you need to get people committed to WORKING. A simple work matrix is a simple and effective place to start.

Well, that’s it for today. Tune in next week, when I’ll talk about how you can keep the principle of “authentic culture” front and center in people’s minds. And don’t forget to write me. Ask me a question or tell me what you’d like see on the show.

Until then, remember to do what’s right for your nonprofit, not what’s convenient or easy

Until then, create a great day! . . . Whooya!

Tom Iselin

“America’s Best Board Retreat and Strategic Planning Facilitator”

Additional Resources:


Tom's Books, Podcasts, and YouTube Channel

Tom Iselin has built four sector-leading nonprofits and four foundations. He’s written six books, sits on six boards, and hosts a video blog and podcast. Each year, Tom speaks to more than 5,000 nonprofit leaders at conferences across the country. He is considered America's best board retreat and strategic planning facilitator and is a leading authority on high-performance nonprofits, and his impact on the industry has been featured on CNN, Nightline, and in Newsweek.

Tom is the president of First Things First, a business specializing in board development retreats, strategic planning, fundraising, executive coaching, and speaking. To relax, he loves mountain biking, hiking, skiing, tennis, and baking.

If you’re in the hunt for the best board retreat/board development facilitation, or the best strategic planning facilitation, it would be a privilege to learn more about your organization and the aspirations you hope to achieve as you work to propel your noble mission. Jot me an email to set up a meet-and-greet call.

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