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Nonprofit Entrepreneurship Services

Some Questions and Answers About
Earned-Income Program and Pilot

Be sure to read the program and pilot description before you review the following questions and answers. See the pilot to view the description of the program pilot.

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1. How will you ensure a synergistic mix of Circle members (by skill, organizational situation and personality)? How will you ensure that members of competing organizations do not end up in the same Circle?
2. What commitments will organizations need to make to be able to join the program?
3. Is there a skill building or individualized consulting piece for each of the participants?
4. Could the program be stronger by adding private sector volunteers in finance/accounting and marketing to the Circles?
5. Can you build a longer term implementation execution piece into the program through regular consultant or mentor check-in?
6. Have you looked at The Executive Committee (TEC) program?
7. Have you offered this program, or significant elements of it yourselves?
8. What are the post-pilot terms between the service provider and Authenticity Consulting, LLC?
9. Have you successfully offered a peer-lending program with banks in the U.S.?
10. Have you considered on-line evaluation and assessments on your website, rather than postal mail surveys, etc?
11. It seems that costs can come down as the program is developed?

1. How will you ensure a synergistic mix of Circle members (by skill, organizational situation and personality)? How will you ensure that members of competing organizations do not end up in the same Circle?

We've had experience in reaching this goal (ensuring a synergistic mix) for over ten years. To ensure suitability and commitment:
1-a -- We use an up-front selection questionnaire and interview potential participants to ensure that their organizations are ready for earned-income and participants have the desire, commitment and resources to implement earned-income plans
1-b -- We researched over the years which types of participants work best together. We've found that it's often best to have Circle members who:
1-b-1 -- All have similar levels of responsibility (eg, all be executive directors, or all program directors, etc.) or all have strong interest in learning the same topic or skill
1-c -- We have each participant sign (and share with other members) a Letter of Participation that conveys their commitment to attendance and to each other
1-d -- We contact each member to tell them who might be in their Circle to ensure they have no problem with any of the other members, eg, to ensure that members are not in competition with each other, on each other's boards, etc. (Note that it can an advantage to have members with similar earned income programs in order that they can collaborate with each other.)
1-e -- We certainly accept Circles where some members have more skill and experience than others. This tends to produce a richer mix in the nature of help between members. More skilled members indirectly become mentors for others at times, while the less experienced can ask the "dumb" questions that really make other stand back and think.

Regarding planning mix of personalities in Circles, we've found that it really doesn't add much to assess and mix Circle members according to their personality types (eg, use Myers-Briggs preference assessments, etc.). The nature of the Circles is not that of a highly interactive discussion group (where personality types really come into play). Rather Circles are highly focused problem-solving groups where, eg, questioning and sharing of materials are much more important than dynamics of different personality types during highly interactive discussion. Besides, all members tend to quickly become highly involved in their Circles, almost regardless of their personality types.

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2. What commitments will the organizations need to make to be able to join the program?

We've found over the years that unless members really take charge to develop their own plans (strategic plans, business plans, earned-income plans, etc.), the plans end up sitting on the shelf -- untouched. So members of the peer coaching earned-income groups (or any other organization development effort) must be very committed to the earned-income effort. Much more expensive earned-income development programs might give very close, ongoing attention to almost write plans for members, but the plans very likely won't be used by the members.

Members should be committed to:
2-a -- Attending all meetings (retreat, Circle sessions and Symposium)
2-b -- Completing the earned-income workbooks between sessions, and this may require that they refer to additional materials that we provide, usually in the Free Management Library
2-c -- Conferring with other organization members, eg, board chairs, board committees, other Circle members, etc.
2-d -- Really taking wholehearted participation in the program, ie, showing up, being honest, taking actions and reflecting on the actions that they're taking

Regarding the number of hours in the program, participants might spend:
- 40 hours in meetings (info session, Initial Planning Session, 6-9 Circle meetings and the Symposium)
- 3-4 hours a week between Circle meetings, while completing their earned income workbooks

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3. Is there a skill building or individualized consulting piece for each of the participants?

Regarding skill building, participants will learn skills in:
3-a -- Planning for Circle meetings, asking for and getting help in Circle meetings and helping other members in Circle meetings (this often builds skills in listening, consulting, presenting and sharing feedback -- very useful skills to have in the workplace!)
3-b -- Designing various plans, eg, marketing, financial, operational, etc. They'll often have samples of plans to refer to.

Regarding individualized consulting, the focus of this program will be to accomplish individualized assistance through:
3-c -- Providing each Circle member their own individualized time in each Circle meeting to get ongoing guidance from other Circle members and the facilitator.
3-d -- Each member promptly getting their individual questions answered on-line from Andy and Carter. The questions and answers will promptly be posted as FAQ answers on this Web site for other members to view, as well.

Note that each participant will be encourage to develop their own Professional Development Plan, which they will develop and implement during the course of the program. They will get support from their Circle members, service provider and Authenticity Consulting, LLC, to implement their plan.

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4. Could the program be stronger by adding private sector volunteers in finance/accounting and marketing to the Circles?

Volunteers could be a wonderful addition to the program for a service provider! They could consult one-on-one with participants, as well as deliver short lectures and workshops around the common concerns of participants (eg, market research and profitability analysis would be two likely subjects).

Certain nonprofit service providers may be able to accomplish this addition if they have strong volunteer management programs. The service providers would need to take the lead in this effort in their particular geographic locales. Considerations would be:
4-a -- Volunteers would need strong commitment to volunteering their services on a consistent and timely basis (this consistency is not always ensured from volunteers, particularly when they have such strong technical skills as finances and accounting, etc.)
4-b -- The volunteers would need to be recruited and organized into the program at the particular times when their expertise would be needed. We'd certainly be glad to work with the service providers to help integrate the skills of the volunteers into appropriate points in the overall program.

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5. Can you build a longer term implementation execution piece into the program through regular consultant or mentor check-in?

Programs can continue Circles for as long as they wish. (We've had Circles last for 15 years!). In addition,
5-a -- Participants can always ask questions in a free on-line group we set up for them.
5-b -- If participants are going to falter, it's usually early on in the development phase of the program, when we are readily available
5-c -- We do include ongoing evaluation with participants, including after they have finished their Circle meetings.

In addition, we will be available to all participants via e-mail, phone and fax.

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6. Have you looked at The Executive Committee (TEC) CEO program?

Yes. Dr. Carter McNamara, developer of the Circles model and co-founder of Authenticity Consulting, LLC,, researched several peer-based programs (including TEC) during his doctoral research.

There seem to be an increasing number of peer-based programs with a variety of formats and natures of peer exchange. The Circles model is somewhat unique in that it is based on the Action Learning process -- a process now used world-wide in organization and management development. In fact, there are international organizations based on the process, including the International Federation of Action Learning (IFAL), with branches in several continents.

Action Learning has priority on cultivating each member's complete participation and interaction with other members -- rather than the too often over-dependence on outside consultants and group "experts". Peers can accomplish a great deal with each other if
a) provided the 20% of materials needed to generate 80% of the results and
b) each member participates wholeheartedly in the process.

Get more information about Action Learning.)

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7. Have you offered this program, or significant elements of it yourselves?

While we have not implemented this program in its entirety, we have provided earned income consulting for over 14 years (the past eight years to nonprofits) and Circles consulting for over ten years. We have observed numerous positive results among earned income clients during this period (sharper sense of vision and strategy, more engaged board of directors, elimination of low-income programs, increase in sales and profitability of programs, and development of new social enterprise "champions"). We have designed and operated Circles in a wide variety of organizations over the past fifteen years, with a variety of positive outcomes, as well, in the areas of personal development, professional development, team building and organization development (see some testimonials from members of Leaders Circles, a model developed by Authenticity co-founder, Carter McNamara).

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8. What are the post-pilot terms between the service provider and Authenticity Consulting, LLC?

We are exploring a franchise or licensing relationship wherein we will provide service providers the right to copy our materials, ongoing access to our web-based resources, and ongoing guidance to design and implement the program on their own. During the transition, it would probably be wise for us to still do the Initial Planning Session, the end-of program Symposium, and the mid-point, end-of-program and follow-on evaluations.

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9. Have you successfully offered a peer-lending program with banks in the U.S.?

We've helped set up peer-lending groups in Nova Scotia, Canada. The nice thing about this model is the limited administration required on the part of the participating bank. Basically, they set up a revolving line of credit that the fund administrators (service providers, etc.) manage. Peers in the Circle borrow from the line of credit and are responsible to other members to stay up-to-date on loan payments, etc. The Grameen Foundation (world leaders in micro-credit) does this model.

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10. Have you considered on-line evaluation (and assessments) on your website, rather than postal mail surveys, etc?

Yes, we are likely to have on-line collection and tabulation of assessment and evaluation feedback over the coming months. This will automate the process, which will reduce costs for us and our clients.

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11. It seems that costs can come down as the program is developed?

Initial costs ($9,000 plus travel expenses for 10 trips) are somewhat higher than we anticipate program costs to be down the road. Pilot costs are a little higher because we will be facilitating each of the Circle sessions in order to work closely with program providers. We fully expect that program costs will be about $5,000 (plus travel expenses for 4 trips).

Note that service providers can at least fully recover these costs by charging a fee per participant.

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