Sharpen Your Axe: Resources for Capacity Building

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will use the first four to sharpen my axe.

This quote is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln. However, there’s some controversy as to whether it was really uttered by our 16th president. There’s speculation that it came from someone else — a lumberjack perhaps, or even some advertising exec in the 1960s. But no matter the origins of the quote, it holds significant wisdom — especially when applied to nonprofit management.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th American president
Abraham Lincoln, 16th American president

In order to run an effective nonprofit organization it’s important to keep your “axe” sharpened. You need a lot of different skills, and you need to be prepared. You need to keep up with trends and changing laws. You need the right tools for success. You should strive to always be building the capacity of your organization to accomplish its mission.

Here are two excellent resources to help you build the capacity of your nonprofit organization:

Nonprofit Good Practice Guide

The Nonprofit Good Practice Guide is an online resource designed to help you build a stronger and more efficient nonprofit organization. The tools, tips, and guidance available on the site have been vetted by a Michigan-wide network of capacity-building organizations, including GLCYD, who are experts in governance and management.

Looking for a template for board policies? How about a sample media release? A checklist for amending your bylaws? Tips for protecting your organization online? These are the sorts of resources you’ll find under the headings of basic infrastructure, communication, diversity and inclusion, financial management, fundraising, governance, human resources, internet technology, planning, public policy and advocacy, strategic alliances, transparency and accountability and volunteer engagement.

The 2015 U.P. Nonprofit Conference

The U.P. Nonprofit Conference is the event in the U.P. to build your organization’s capacity! Registration is now open for the conference, which will be held Thursday, Oct. 15 at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

This year, the conference theme is “Speak U.P.” Nonprofits are continually communicating critical messages to numerous audiences including board members, funders, consultants policy makers, volunteers and the community. The conference will equip nonprofit personnel to use their voice in new, innovative ways.

A slate of 12 workshops will address topics critical to the health of nonprofits.

Jon Terry of Capital Youth Strategies LLC will be the keynote speaker. Jon ‘s career has focused on helping nonprofit organizations find their voice and speak up for their missions. As a former staffer on Capital Hill and head of government relations for the YMCA of the USA, Jon founded Capital Youth Strategies LLC to help nonprofits better engage in the public policy process.

Jon will share tips for nonprofits to engage in advocacy and also stress the importance of nonprofits in helping set priorities in partnership with government rather than waiting for the outcome.

There will also be a panel discussion featuring local nonprofit leaders and staff of elected leaders who will share their experiences on advocacy and collaboration.

If Honest Abe were alive today, I bet he’d be there, axe in hand.

Linda Remsburg is an associate at Great Lakes Center for Youth Development. She is an authority on neither lumberjacks nor American presidents.

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