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June 25, 2022
The Pollyanna Principles Helps Nonprofits Create the Future
Hildy Gottlieb
Hildy Gottlieb
Nonprofit organizations that feel bogged down, laden with reactive solutions, and short on inspiration may get back on track by focusing more fully on their mission, an idea explored in The Pollyanna Principles: Reinventing “Nonprofit Organizations” to Create the Future of Our World.

Hildy Gottlieb, a veteran nonprofit consultant based in Arizona who recently published the book, continually focuses nonprofits—or community benefit organizations (CBOs), a term she prefers—on tenacious accountability to deep and lasting change.

She rejects the traditional charitable model of all-knowing funders and piecemeal solutions as well as a business model that emphasizes financial sustainability and market share. Instead, The Pollyanna Principles emphasizes interconnectedness and positive future vision. Essentially, the author wants CBOs to step up and transform the world together, and she demonstrates how prioritizing essential principles can impact and change structures within an organization and in society.

The book provides guidance on using principles for planning, governance, and fundraising. Gottlieb’s model of “vision-based community impact planning” puts a compelling vision of the community’s future at the top of the agenda. The next phase connects that vision to the present-day work of the planning group, and the third phase focuses on what the organization needs internally to support that work. Diagrams and detailed examples show how to put the ideas to work.

Gottlieb gives compelling illustrations of how the principles of interconnectedness affect fundraising. “We are not using the word —friend’ as it is commonly used in community benefit work ”“ as a euphemism for —donor’,” she warns. Instead, “by deeply engaging community members in every aspect of a program, the program will be better able to weather life’s storms.”

Her story of her consulting company’s adventures creating the nation’s first Diaper Bank (an organization based on collecting and distributing a vitally needed product) makes a clear case for building on existing community resources. Once she engaged a newspaper delivery service in diaper transport, arranged for developmentally challenged adults to dothe warehousing, and got service providers involved in case management, the venture was infinitely less vulnerable to collapse.

Boards are another key locus for mission, and Gottlieb provides suggestions on how to preserve time and energy for that work. Can everything on the board meeting agenda be related to mission, vision, or values, or to furthering the community impact plan? If not, could it be pre-meeting reading, or handled by a committee or the staff? What if the outgoing board president automatically transitioned into being “Keeper of What Matters Most”? Her examples provide concrete ways to keep mission and vision workable and consistent parts of every board’s agenda.

The Pollyanna Principles is intended to inspire as much as to instruct. The book is easy to digest, with short chapters and sentences and inspirational quotes, and is as much written for casual reading as it is for a CBO’s resource shelf.

The Pollyanna Principles is available through on-line booksellers and or by clicking here.

Reviewed by Susan Loucks

October 2009
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