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Exposing the Elephants: Creating Exceptional Nonprofits



Exposing the Elephants: Creating Exceptional Nonprofits

Pamela J. Wilcox

ISBN: 978-1-118-95225-2 August 2006 320 Pages

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Go Beyond "Business As Usual" with Your Nonprofit

"At last--the 'real truth' about nonprofit management! In Exposing the Elephants, Wilcox reveals the 'pesky pachyderms' that block our way to full effectiveness. How often have we grumbled that 'just because you're a [insert profession here], it doesn't mean you know how to run a nonprofit'? With clarity, passion, and sly humor, Wilcox validates that perspective and many others--but doesn't let us get away with just accepting the presence of the elephant in the room. Wilcox summarizes complex issues using recognizable examples and then offers sensible strategies for resolving them. Ultimately, she gives us permission to do the right thing(s). I love this book--and I can't wait to start implementing the 'elephant solutions'! "
--Nancy Perkin Beaumont, CAE, Executive Director, Society of American Archivists

"Before I finished reading Exposing the Elephants, I met with my key staff to talk about what we must change. I also shared what I learned from reading the book with a friend who sits on several different types of boards. Wilcox says it like it is--and it needs to be said--in every nonprofit organization."
--Julie Donovan, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity, Lake County, Illinois

"A remarkably candid, fresh, and witty analysis of the challenges inherent in managing nonprofits. Insightful and pragmatic solutions to overcoming the 'white elephants' so prevalent in the nonprofit culture. A 'must read' for every nonprofit CEO and board member."
--Dick Yingst, President & CEO, Financial Managers Society, Chicago, Illinois

"Pam Wilcox is willing to say the things that nonprofit professionals often do not wish to hear. She reveals through clear language and flowing style the significant barriers that nonprofits face and need to remove for not just success but also excellence. Unlike many authors who point out what is wrong with nonprofits, Wilcox shows us the way to tackle our most intractable issues and move to excellence. This book should be read by any and everyone involved in the nonprofit sector."
--Katrina S. Rogers, PhD, Associate Dean, Research and Practice Director, Center for Innovation in the Nonprofit Sector, Fielding Graduate University



Live Lessons and At the Salt Mines.


Part I: Promise versus Reality.

Chapter 1: Nonprofits: A Closer Look.

The Wide Reach of Nonprofits.

Myths That Surround Nonprofits.

Higher Expectations Equal Better Nonprofits.

Chapter 2: The Nonprofit Dilemma.

Rating Nonprof it Performance.

“If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.”

Part II: The Problem Elephants: Bad Behavior, Bad Results.

Uninvited Guests: The Elephants of the Nonprof it Sector.

Chapter 3: The Mission Impossible Elephant.

Where’s Mission?

The I’m the Expert Archetype.

The Two Nonprof it Components.

Constraints to the Volunteer Role.

Roles and Relationships Defined.

I’m the Expert Takes Over.

A Live Lesson: “Two Does Not Equal One”.

A Primer of Lessons from “Two Does Not Equal One”.

Where’s the Mission?

Chapter 4: The Earth to Board Elephant.

A Reality Check.

The Siren Call of “Members”.

Connect and Articulate.

Protect and Supervise.

The Board’s Worst Enemy.

A Live Lesson: “Intentional Grounding Is Not a Foul”.

The Economic Cost of the Earth to Board Elephant.

Chapter 5: The Board Fiddles, Rome Burns Elephant.

Whose Job Is It?

Policy and Strategy Uncensored.

Board-Level Policy and Strategy.

A Live Lesson: “Behind CEO Mismanagement Lurks Board Failure”.

Chapter 6: The Smile, Not Skill Elephant.

Then There Were None: The Disappearing CEO.

A Brief Introduction: Four Elephants and a Code.

The Board and CEO.

The CEO and Staff.

A Live Lesson: “If the CEO Fails, Blame the Staff ”.

Chapter 7: The Read My Lips Elephant.

Hubris and Nonprofits.

Outsized Rhetoric: Up Close and Personal.

Why Are Nonprof its Addicted to Outsized Rhetoric?

Live Lesson: “Great Is Just a State of Mind”.

The Reality.

The Consequences.

The Cost of Opportunity Lost.

Part III: The Elephant Solutions: Good Behavior, Exceptional Results.

A New Mindset.

Coaxing Elephants into the Open.

The Five Elephant Solutions.

Chapter 8: The Mission Impossible Solution: Create One Mission System.

Taming the Mission Impossible Elephant.

Elephant Solution One: Create One Mission System.

Making the Changes Stick.

Chapter 9: The Earth to Board Solution: A Shared Reality.

Taming the Earth to Board Elephant.

Elephant Solution Two: Seek a Shared Reality.

Making the Changes Stick.

Chapter 10: The Board Fiddles, Rome Burns Solution: Develop Policy and Strategy at Every Level.

Taming the Board Fiddles, Rome Burns Elephant.

Elephant Solution Three: Develop Policy and Strategy at All Levels.

Making the Changes Stick.

Chapter 11: The Smile, Not Skill Solution: Demand Performance.

Taming the Smile, Not Skill Elephant.

Elephant Solution Four: Demand Performance.

CEOs and Performance.

Making the Changes Stick.

Chapter 12: The Read My Lips Solution: Reward Results, Not Rhetoric.

Taming the Read My Lips Elephant.

Elephant Solution Five: Reward Results, Not Rhetoric.

Making the Changes Stick.

Conclusion: Exceptional Nonprofits.

Transforming Unruly Pachyderms into Well-Behaved Guests.

Exceptional Nonprof its Meet Future Challenges.

Exceptional Nonprof its and the Future.


  • TOOLS AND BLUEPRINTS: Includes a wealth of practical resources, including accountability “job” descriptions, constituent outreach samples, model reports for board oversight , a key indictors worksheet, model finance reports, and much more.