Crooners and Divas


By:  Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Crooners and Divas get all the attention.  Many are known by a single name:  Sinatra, Streisand, Bennett, Aretha.  Their talent is undeniable.  But here’s an exercise I recommend.  The next time you listen to their music, focus on what’s going on behind the lead singer.  Try to pick out the rhythm section, the horns, the strings, and the back-up singers.  Focus on the artistry beneath the lead singer and imagine what the recording would be without the supporting cast.

Your non-profit organization is like that.  You have a chief executive, and hopefully that person is talented, maybe even gifted.  But the supporting cast makes your organization come alive and is the face of your organization that most people experience.  Here are some thoughts about attending to your supporting cast.

Board members:  The Board is like your rhythm section.  They set the beat for your organization.  It is critical that you listen to your Board and feel their underlying support for what is going on out front.  Know that when you lead your Board, even subtle changes shift the focus of the whole organization in a new direction.

Staff members:  Your staff can be likened to the horn players.  People notice their contributions to the team in every measure. Make sure that they work together, and let them take turns doing a solo!  Your leadership here is what gives your organization its distinctive, signature sound.

Volunteers:  Volunteers have a lot in common with the string section.  No solos here, this group works together to deliver the texture and feel of your services, usually without fanfare.  The best way to lead the strings is to emphasize consistency and harmony, and the result will be a lush coherence in how people experience your organization.

 Donors:  Your donors are like your back-up singers.  They are thrilled to play a supporting role in creating the music of your organization.  They could contribute a lot of places, but this is the place where they are engaged now, and your job is to draw upon their exuberance and to let them know that without them the organization would be flat!

Don’t allow your organization to be defined only by the Crooners and Divas.  Pay careful attention to the accompanists who give you a sound and a feel that is uniquely your own!


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