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Today we focus of on “Implementation” the fourth and final key element in Nonprofit Leadership. While Vision, Constituencies, and Individuals get all the headlines, it is truly implementation that does all the work! So let’s dive in…

One of the common denominators for all nonprofits is the sheer volume of work that needs to get done. Unlike our for profit counterparts, we are not in an industry where we can just throw money at the problem, hire as many staff as we need, and sit back and watch all the results. The plus side of all this is that in my 34 years working for nonprofits, any job I was in always came with the promise, take care of the immediate work we hired you for and we’d be more than happy to give you expanded responsibilities (think—leadership opportunities).

Implementation therefore is the final step in the leadership process and by far the most important. You can have a great Vision with motivated Constituencies and clearly identified Individuals but mess up Implementation and the whole deck of cards comes tumbling down. The key is to have alignment, precision, and not be afraid of hard work.

There are some simple steps to follow:

  1. Lay the Vision out for the entire year (where do you want to be tracking against your Vision in 12 months’ time) and then break your year down by quarters. What does success look like three months from now?
  2. Line up your Constituencies who need to be behind that Vision for the next three months. Who are they? What do you need them to do? List them out with their action steps.
  3. What about the Individuals? Who is key to the Vision? Who leads those Constituencies you identified? What do you need them to do for your Vision the next three months?
  4. Grid this all out in a matrix–and every Sunday night before you start the next week, take an hour to plot your work for the coming week. What phone calls do you need to make this week? What emails to send? What meetings to arrange? What power points and reports to create? All in service to your aligned Vision.

So often we get distracted. Of course emergencies and curve balls come up. Of course we can get thrown off track. But we need a quarterly adjusted, weekly implementation plan to literally keep us on track. Without the plan your Vision stands no chance.

Let’s face it. There is little that is sexy about Implementation… it’s hard work! Often it is the manual labor that feels like grunt work. But Implementation can be oh so satisfying in our sector because it is the day to day work that literally leads to successes in everything from stellar fund raising campaigns to profound mission wins.

One last thought.  The concept of Implementation when done right also comes with a healthy dose of humility. The reality is that we in nonprofit are above no duty, no task is too small. If it needs to get done and there is no one else to do it and/or one might inspire many others to do it also, then let’s roll up the sleeves and get the job done. And most importantly, if you came into this business looking for the credit, then you are in the wrong business. As you implement always be looking for those you can heap praise and credit on.  In the end, humility in nonprofits borne out through disciplined implementation is the quickest route to leadership (and success!).

More on Mark Roithmayr

Mark currently serves as Chief Relationship Officer for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In his role, he provides strategic direction and overall leadership running the Field including the management and fiscal performance of the 56 Chapters as well as the development of key volunteer relationships on behalf of the society locally, regionally and nationally. Prior to the current position, served as Chief Development officer overseeing the Society’s donor development activities including major gifts, foundation giving, planned giving, corporate giving and outright/restricted gifts. Oversee all donor development activities at the national and chapter levels for LLS–the $300 million leader in blood cancer research.

Before LLS, Mark worked as first full time President of Autism Speaks–the largest autism science and advocacy organization in the world today. Merged three organizations into AS in 20 months. Raised over $60 million annually. Invested over $170 million into autism research. Passed national and state bills increasing funds for autism science while reducing out of pocket expenses for families. Helped make “autism” a household word through award winning Ad Council Campaign and the United Nation’s declaration of World Autism Awareness in perpetuity on April 2nd.

Prior to AS, Mark worked 20 years at the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation in a series of progressive jobs. Turned around ailing flagship chapter doubling revenue. Oversaw all national fundraising leading the Foundation to record years in it’s signature March for Babies event. Earlier in career served as the Foundation’s head of communications. Prior to March of Dimes worked as Director of Public Relations at the New York Lung Association.  

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