We live in an era of both transparency and of difficult problems to solve. I deeply believe that the more people who know about the problems our nonprofits face and the ways that we are trying to solve them, the better. To do that, you have to be willing to share plans, strategies, minutes of meetings and…..budgets and financial reports.
I know that this sounds like heresy to some readers. I was brought up in an era where, when we took a math test, we were told by the teachers to “Cover your work!” You may have been as well, and that experience seems to have scarred our generation’s outlook on management. We already share our financials with our boards—why not with our staff and non-governing volunteers?
Hear me clearly: Do not do this without first training staff and volunteers on how to read income and expense reports and balance sheets. But once you do, start discussing long and short term goals, their financial impact and their mission outcome. Start sharing financial benchmarks, then more people will have a better understanding of your organization–and that’s a good thing. If you don’t believe me, read the wonderful book Open Book Management, The Coming Business Revolution by John Case. This book and Case’s two follow up books are still best sellers for a reason: Opening up your financials works.
Will everyone care about your financials, plans, or strategies? No. But those that do are likely to be your most valuable employees and future stars. Think about it: You can do leadership development and identification just by sharing more of the information you already have. Pretty cool.
There are two rules about knowledge (information) and both are true.
“Knowledge is power. If I keep all the knowledge I keep all the power.”
“Knowledge is power. If I share all the knowledge, we all get powerful together.”