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Sunday, 30 October 2016 17:02

Q&A: Paul Knudstrup, president and founder, Midwest Consulting Group

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Paul Knudstrup, president and founder, Midwest Consulting Group Paul Knudstrup, president and founder, Midwest Consulting Group

Paul Knudstrup focuses his consulting work on strategic planning, individual and management team development, succession planning, performance management and personal productivity. Prior to forming MCG, he was executive director of the Fetzer Business Development Center at Western Michigan University. Knudstrup helped form the Oneplace Leadership Academy in Kalamazoo that launched in 2012 and is open to area nonprofits at no cost, thanks to donations from local foundations. He spoke with MiBiz about how nonprofit organizations are tackling leadership challenges.

What led to the development of the Oneplace Nonprofit Leadership Academy?

We did that simply because we recognized there were a lot of nonprofits leaders, executive directors, and founders who were getting toward retirement age and most nonprofit organizations haven’t really recognized that was coming. In some cases, boards didn’t want to recognize it was coming because then they would have to deal with the whole succession issue. Most nonprofits have not been able to invest in training and development for the next leaders in their organizations. 

What is the biggest leadership challenge now for nonprofits?

Nonprofit leaders need to have opportunities to become more well-rounded in the sense of running organizations. Sometimes, there are duplications or overlaps of services and programs in the community and funders have started to look at collaboration and demonstrated outcomes.  Nonprofits need to ask themselves how they can partner with one another to make the best use of those available dollars. Nonprofit leaders need to focus on best practices.

One of the biggest challenges for nonprofits is capacity. There’s an excess of demand for programs and services that nonprofits provide. Relatively two-thirds of nonprofits in the United States ended the year or will end the year with unmet demands. This creates the need to keep pushing for additional funding and hiring and in most cases, nonprofits don’t have the ability to hire additional staff.

How do you make nonprofits an attractive career option?

There are several ways to do that. One way is to appeal to the individual’s altruistic sense while being very clear about what the vision and values are for the nonprofit organization. No one goes into nonprofit work because they figure they’re going to make a lot of money. People working in nonprofits have to pay the same bills that you and I do, and they have to use limited resources very wisely. There’s a sheer joy and satisfaction that shows up in terms of why people do this work and I think that’s a huge plus. That attracts people who care about others and social issues.

Why haven’t we seen more leadership training resources in the nonprofit sector?

Who would do it? The nonprofits aren’t going to do it because every dime they get in their hands is put into service or program delivery. There doesn’t appear to be a national organization of these kinds of management service organizations like Oneplace. There are seven in the state of Michigan, but they are all funded and operated differently. Oneplace is the only one that is completely funded and doesn’t charge fees for programs and services.

I think it’s wonderful and I’m glad to see higher education institutions recognizing that they have a role to play in helping grow and develop the social sector. Anything they can do to help boost advancement for people in the nonprofit sector is good.

How can nonprofits attract and retain millennials?

Opportunities need to be provided for career people in nonprofits to move upward in the same organization or another organization in the community. There needs to be a willingness on the part of nonprofit leaders in the community to recognize when an employee is ready for a new opportunity, and if they don’t have anything in their organization, they need to network in the local nonprofit community so that person stays in the community. Employees will leave if they don’t see a career path. Money helps and so does the ability to be able to offer competitive salaries. It’s very difficult to compete with large organizations.

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