Executive Coaching in Crisis and in the Every Day

By | Uncategorized

Executive Coaching in Crisis and in the Every Day
By Sally Coates, Sally H. Coates Consulting

Uneasy is the head that wears the crown.
(Shakespeare, in Henry IV, Part 2, Act 3, scene 1, lines 26–31)

Now more than ever, in this time of crisis, multiple voices are prepared to give you their great advice… ‘heavy is definitely the head’. Blogs, news briefs, group emails, government policy briefs, all have suggestions for how you, the CEO/ED, should navigate these difficult times.

The noise can be overwhelming, particularly as you struggle to run your nonprofit agency, juggle programming, and appease stakeholders all at once. Staff, donors, grantors, the board, volunteers – who should be your priority?

An Executive Coach can be the silent partner to answer your questions about which road to take, which outside voice to listen to, which internal voice to hear and encourage you as you decide what to do. Coaches in the ‘every day’ also support long term Executive Directors in their drive to keep learning and maintain their passion for the mission and the work.

So, what is executive coaching; why is it important and is it worth the cost?
Coaching is a one-on-one relationship between an ED/CEO and a skilled, experienced coach who listens objectively to issues, questions and concerns, and frames them within the interests of your organization, best practices and standards. It goes beyond a leadership course or workshop; a coach can assess your concerns, programs and board or development issue – in crisis and in more stable times – to sort through the essentials of what needs to be accomplished. A coach facilitates professional development in current circumstances and supports growth to address long-term demands.

Many nonprofit leaders do not have the luxury of an executive coach. There is always the concern that requesting the support of a coach implies poor performance, lack of belief in your own ability, or lack of trust by the board. Yet in this Joan Garry article, Joan makes the compelling point that Roger Federer, best of the best in the tennis world, has a coach (or more) with him all the time. This does not indicate a lack of performance or confidence in any way! Another concern is the cost of a coach and using funds for staff development. A nonprofit board must consider the worth of such an expense and consider creative ideas about funding sources.

If the board is prepared to make the cost and time investment in an executive director, a coach can have a tremendous impact on both an organization and its leadership. A leader empowered with new skills and confidence is inevitably more effective and less stressed.

Impact Foundry maintains a list of nonprofit consultants and their ‘special expertise’ that is accessible here.

Many consultants are now offering their services pro-bono. Could you benefit from executive coaching? Now might be the time to find out.

Sally has 30 years’ experience as an Executive Director with a variety of nonprofit organizations. Her resume includes responsibilities of Board Chair, board member and executive management, as well as development, finance, accounting and treasury operations. Most recently she served as the Executive Director of the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program in San Francisco. Prior to that she was the Executive Director of Episcopal Charities of the Diocese of California, and Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Bay Area Affiliate. Her volunteer roles include Board Chair of Guide Dogs for the Blind, President of the Junior League of San Francisco, and Chair of the national board, Episcopal Communities Services of America.

Imagining the Future

By | COVID-19, Uncategorized

Imagining the Future

By Ann Lucas, Nonprofit Strategies

“All models are wrong, but some are useful” is a famous quote attributed to the statistician George E. P. Box. While he was referring to statistical models of predictive behavior, it has morphed into a well-accepted adage in artificial intelligence (AI) models. Now, with our COVID-19 infected status-quo, nonprofits might find the idea of creating “wrong but useful” models or scenarios to be helpful for exploring what the future may bring.

We all engage in some level of scenario planning. The reality is that every decision we make is a choice based on possible outcomes and predictions about what the future holds. It’s how we calculate those predications that matter. Are they based on the past? What we know? Our gut or intuition? Our experience? Or, are we thinking more broadly?

Countless books and papers have been written on scenario planning. Most of them are geared toward big corporations who invest huge amounts of time and money in complex, continuous analysis and modeling. That level of activity isn’t practical for most nonprofit organizations, especially now!  But there may be value in applying scenario planning principles to our work as we try to anticipate what the world might look like in six months, a year or three years.

The Global Business Network publication, “What If? The Art of Scenario Thinking for Nonprofits,” outlines three guiding tenets for successful scenario planning.

  1. Take the Long View. Much of our sector is driven by service demands which, by design, responds to near-term concern and urgent needs. Scenario planning requires looking past immediate pressures and into the future where new possibilities (good and bad) exist.
  2. Engage in Outside-In Thinking. We’re so busy responding to demands and running on minimal budgets that we view the world from the narrow perspective of our organization or area of work. Outside-in thinking encourages us to examine changes coming from the broad external environment that could greatly affect our work.
  3. Invite Multiple Perspectives. Many in the nonprofit sector support diversity. Some champion it. A few actually insist upon it. In these polarizing times, when we’re giving our all for the cause, we may not always seek perspectives from those we don’t (or think we won’t) agree with. But listening to diverse voices helps us engage in Outside-In Thinking and offers new ways of seeing challenges and opportunities on a much larger scale.

Incorporating those tenants, your own scenarios can be created through the following steps:

  • Definition of scope: What is the time frame you’re looking at? Most scenarios that are developed to inform organizational strategy look 5-10 years into the future, but we’re in uncharted waters now, so adjust it to meet your needs. Determine how much time/energy/resources you want to invest, and who will be involved. This could be a great way to engage some board members, especially when it’s clear that some tough decisions lie ahead.
  • Identify driving forces: These are broad areas where shifts could affect your organization. External forces are those outside of your organization that you have little control over, Internal forces are those within your organization. Some examples might include:

External Forces

  • Political
  • Environmental
  • Economic
  • Social/Demographic
  • Technology
  • Legal/Regulatory
  • Funding (broader trends)

Internal Forces

  • Board
  • Staff
  • Volunteers
  • Clients/Customers
  • Service Partners
  • Fundraising (internal trend


  • Perception analysis: This phase identifies the existing mindset of your team around the driving forces and then challenges those assumptions by including diverse opinions from people with expertise outside of your area of service. Comparing internal assumptions against external perceptions helps create a holistic view on possible future paths. The perspectives can be gathered via one-on-one telephone/Video/Zoom interviews, or through online surveys.
  • Identify your critical uncertainties: Select two or three key areas from your driving forces that appear to have the most impact on your organization. For example, an important uncertainty for some organizations might be future government funding.
  • Develop a range of plausible scenarios: This is the core of the process where your organization’s key uncertainties are converted into distinct future scenarios. These can then be enhanced using other driving forces to create plausible future states as well as possible developments that could link the present to this future state. It’s important to distinguish between this type of scenario, which is based on logical ways that uncertainties could play out, verses “wild card scenarios,” which are unexpected events such as a global pandemic.
  • Discuss the implications: Here you discuss the various implications and impacts of each scenario – what action you would take if that scenario came true? What kinds of actions can you take to ensure this new world will (or won’t) happen? What kind of competencies will you need to develop to address this possible new world?
  • Monitoring: We know the only constant is change, so it’s important to define key indicators and monitor them. If drastic shifts occur, revise your scenarios to include the new information.


A common pitfall is overcomplicating the scenarios. Keeping them simple while ensuring that they are plausible but structurally different (not variations on a theme) will provide the insights you need. Ultimately the point is not to predict the future, but to gain a deeper understanding of the larger environment in order to inform your strategy and improve your decisions during today and tomorrow’s uncertain times.


With a deep passion for the nonprofit sector, Ann Lucas has spent more than 25 years helping nonprofits strengthen our community with guidance on fund development, organizational planning and development and board governance. She is a member of the Nonprofit Consultants Network and the Impact Foundry. For more information, visit her website at

The Nonprofit Consultants Network (NCN) is a collaboration of consultants who serve nonprofit organizations in the Sacramento region by convening, engaging, and inspiring them in professional development and growth. The information and opinions shared in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of NCN or its other members. You can access a directory of local consultants who are ready to support organizations during the COVID-19 crisis here.

Who Knows More Than YOU?

By | COVID-19, Uncategorized

Who Knows More Than YOU?

By Dawn Moore, Moore Development Strategies

Does anyone really know what tomorrow will bring in “normal” times? As we begin another month sheltered in place, two things are certain, the reality of uncertainty and, in our lifetime, nobody has firsthand experience in navigating a global pandemic.

You have likely read many articles, participated in countless Zoom meetings, listened to endless webinars, and now find yourself in information overload. These well intended resources bring us together and provide guidance, however, many of us are still left wondering – what now?

As a nonprofit professional in California, you are 1 in 14 people who help sustain this vital community and
economic sector. So, I ask you… what do you know?

  • You know your organization’s mission, programs and constituents.
  • You know the faces of those who benefit from your organization’s efforts.
  • You know the amazing staff and supporters who make your work possible.
  • You know what project or activity continues to circulate on your “to-do” list, if only you had time.
  • You know connectiveness and relationships build and sustain community.
  • You know we are all going through the same storm, albeit in different boats. Some are barely
    floating in leaky rafts and others are riding out the waves in motorized vessels.
  • Most of all, you know nonprofit work is challenging in the best of times.

You also know… you continue to show up!

As you revisit what you already know, trust your instincts, believe in yourself and embrace the elephant in YOUR room.

  • Have all the webinars and “what you need to know” articles been helpful? Have you put any ideas
    into action? Or are you still looking for the “secret sauce?”
  • Where does your organization’s mission fall on the COVID-19 continuum – life-sustaining or nonlife sustaining? Are you communicating with your constituents what you already know?
  • Have you considered this as an opportunity to revisit your “to-do” list of those ever-elusive
    projects or activities?
  • Are you practicing patience with yourself when one moment you are feeling productive and the
    next unproductive, scared, or uncertain? Are you spending time on the path of least resistance?
    Or pushing yourself out of your comfort zone?
  • Have you considered when this storm passes, and it will, how the nonprofit sector and specifically
    your organization will have reminded our country of its critical value in providing vital services and
    community benefits – many of which we have taken for granted?

Keep showing up… you got this!


As a donor, volunteer and fund development professional, Dawn Moore has 25 years experience in serving clients’ organizational and fund development needs. She is a member of the Nonprofit Consultants Network.

The Nonprofit Consultants Network is a collaboration of consultants who serve nonprofit organizations in the Sacramento region by convening, engaging, and inspiring them in professional development and growth. You can access a directory of local consultants who are ready to support organizations during the COVID-19 crisis here.

COVID-19 Disproportionately Impacts Black and People of Color led Nonprofits

By | COVID-19, Uncategorized

COVID-19 Disproportionately Impacts Black and People of Color led Nonprofits
Here are 5 Steps We Can Take to Lessen the Impact


Authored by April Jean, MSW

Pervasive racial inequities continue to have crippling consequences on vulnerable communities of color. At this moment, key decision makers in government and philanthropy are rushing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is understandable they’re working with urgency. The problem is that without applying a racial equity lens, they’ll continue to fail those they seek to help.

Despite being under-funded and overworked, people of color led nonprofits are responding to the most complex needs of their communities. They are tackling racial and economic inequities perpetuated by an unjust system, and their work is amplified during times of crisis.

“When the majority of our community catches a cold, communities of color catch pneumonia.” – Senator Holly Mitchell

Here are five things our government and philanthropic leaders must do right now to mitigate the negative impacts to communities and nonprofits of color:

1. Put Race on the Table

We must address the long-justified mistrust that people of color have in government and philanthropy’s ability to make inclusive and equitable decisions on behalf of our most vulnerable populations. It is our collective responsibility to address issues of power and privilege in order to transform the way we fund, support and serve our most under-resourced nonprofits.

2. Understand the Unique Needs of our Anchor Organizations

Our anchor institutions are those led by people of color who serve their communities through a lens of racial equity and cultural responsiveness. They understand economic and racial trauma in their communities and they have the competency to serve their communities in ways that are innovative, uniquely responsive to their needs. Things to consider: Identify the anchor organizations within your region. Reach out to those you aim to serve through relief funds. Learn what they need. Listen to what they say. Provide them with support. Move out the way!

3. Equitable Funding Efforts are Necessary

True equity means giving people what they need and not what you think they need. We must recognize the deep racial and economic inequities that intensify in times of crisis. The philanthropic community can help by developing a funding strategy that supports nonprofits who are trusted messengers for communities of color and who can speak to the unique concerns of these communities. Ensure there is an intentional effort to remove barriers in order for these organizations to have an equitable opportunity to receive relief dollars. Questions to consider: What communities/populations are likely to be impacted? Disaggregate this data by ethnicity, and this is how you determine where resources go. How can a racial equity lens improve outcomes for said target population?

4. Workforces are Vulnerable Too

Many of these organizations and their workforces are vulnerable and we should do everything we can to protect them. Over 60 percent of our direct service nonprofit workforce are people of color and in most cases, these are black women who are classified as 10 percent of working poor. These organizations are already vulnerable to the compounding impacts of not having access to living wages, limited access to healthcare and limited options for affordable childcare during work hours. These essential organizations with vulnerable workforces are being asked to remain on the front lines and increase the volume of their work with limited-to-no support from funders. If we are truly functioning from the lens of racial equity, relief funds must include hazard pay for those who remain on the front lines putting their health and safety at risk.

5. Remove or Reduce Reporting & Use Requirements

As service needs shift, resources and support from funders needs to match. Commit to reducing the burden on the reporting process and be flexible with how your investment is used during this time of crisis. For example, forego monthly reports and allow them to shift restricted funding to general operating support. Provide nonprofits with space to pivot so they are able to operate and provide support to families most affected by COVID-19.

Applying a racial equity lens requires us to do the hard work, even during a crisis. Now is the time for our government and philanthropic leaders to create a funding framework that ensures equitable outcomes for the future. In order to flatten the curve, we must invest in the safety, health and economic wellness of our most vulnerable communities, and this includes the nonprofits who serve them.

For more information on Additional Resources:


April Jean brings over 16 years of experience in nonprofit social services, mental health, foster care, child & adult welfare, nonprofit administration and community development to the Impact Foundry team. Prior to joining Impact Foundry, April founded Advocates for Action, a consulting effort focused on reimagining a comprehensive systems approach to improve outcomes for communities of color in the Sacramento region.

Nonprofit Consultants Network: List of Services/Expertise

By | COVID-19, Uncategorized

Does your organization need guidance, a patient facilitator, or a little expertise on topics like events, printing, marketing, crisis communication, HR, development and more? The Nonprofit Consultants Network is a local resource! Find consultants who are ready to support organizations during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Nonprofit Consultants Network (NCN) is a collaboration of consultants who serve nonprofit organizations in the Sacramento region by convening, engaging, and inspiring them in professional development and growth.

NCN Services & Expertise 042720

COVID-19 Funding – Instrumental

By | Uncategorized

Foundations and corporations are stepping up to meet the critical needs of our communities during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With things evolving quickly it can be hard to stay on top of what grant opportunities are being announced.

Instrumentl is leveraging our grant discovery tools to aggregate all COVID-19 related grants for 501c3 nonprofits to this publicly available list:

COVID-19 Grants List

The list is being updated daily. Check back frequently for updates. Please share with those in need.

If you come across a COVID-19 related grant opportunity for 501c3s that is not on this public list, please email us at [email protected]