Taxes are due on April 15th (today) and I am okay with paying them.
When I hear people complain about paying taxes, I point out that I like roads, supporting the military, having hospitals and education programs for pre-kindergarteners. I think supporting medical research, finding new sources of energy and providing care for older people is pretty cool. I like going to national parks and monuments and knowing that I can find useful information about most things from government web sites. I know that I am not being fashionable in my belief that paying taxes is okay but I consider it a good investment in our country and a responsibility no different from voting on the second Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
I can appreciate that people don’t like paying taxes. We’d all rather have that money in our pocket and we all can agree that the government is not an efficient system and that everyone does not agree with how money is being spent by the government.
Research on this history of taxation suggests that people feel okay about paying taxes during periods of war, particularly, when spending was deemed to be just–the Civil War, WW I and WW II. Since then few have supported wars–Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan–leaving everyone with a bitter taste in having to support these efforts. I think it was too bad that when patriotic feelings were running high (after 9/11) we all weren’t asked to sacrifice a bit more to fund what seemed like a noble cause. Instead taxes were cut and any feeling we had as a nation pulling together was lost.
Now my accountant informs me that she has gotten me an extension since we didn’t have all the proper documents reviewed and completed. Perhaps that is what is making it a little easier for me this April. Check back with me August 15th and we’ll see how I am feeling. Hopefully all my taxes will be up to speed and perhaps I’ll even get back a little refund. I don’t mind paying my fair share, but I don’t think it is necessary to pay more than that!
© Richard Citrin 2013
I spent the afternoon yesterday with one of my favorite clients going over budget reports. There must have been 6 or more reports we reviewed about their programs, everything from income statements to balance sheets. There were sub reports, special project reports and even service metric data to review. We were able to interpret all of it but towards the end of our meeting, I commented that the data was “informative but not really helpful” for the team to improve the management of their department.
Part of the reason for that may be due to the fact that the reports are geared to meet the finance departments requirements for reporting or that the team I was working with does not know what they need or how to ask for reports that address specific questions they have such as costs per site where production is done (which was not a report that was available).
So here are my top 3 quotes you will hear from staff that the data you receive my be informative but not particularly helpful.
Now before we beat up on the finance department too much, we should recognize that many staff are not budget savvy but I would probably build the case to say that both parties should meet half-way and that is where the use of dashboard reports with red, yellow and green markers can help point out where things are going well or poorly. Taking that information and then translating it into actionable steps is often times where the gap is the largest. So in order to improve the friendliness and usefulness of reports, I encouraged my colleagues yesterday to take 3 actions:
It is an art and skill to learn how to use data and reports effectively. Oftentimes, people in the field are not exactly sure how best to data but it really begins by looking at both the data and the programs and look back and forth between each to help find explanations for successes and opportunities
Hey, with today being April Fool’s its time to get your jokester hat out and get ready for some yuck, yuck.
Since I love doing research, I checked out a number of important facts about the first of April. An early precursor of April Fool’s Day was an ancient Roman festival called “Hilaria” which was celebrated around the first day of Spring. The days were highlighted by events of rejoicing including births of children, successes in life and probably acknowledging the greatness of Rome. Every one had to be upbeat and no one was allowed to show signs of sorrow or grief. And given how serious those Romans were, you would probably not want to fool around with that day or you might have become a sacrificial joke!
The Museum of Hoaxes catalogued a list of the best April Fool’s jokes for the past 60 years or so, and here are their results. Some people are so gullible!
I’m sure I would have been number 1 on the gullible list of believing these yarns. In fact, I think I asked my mother about planting a spaghetti tree in our backyard! Have fun today and keep that energy and spirit with you year round
I conducted a workshop on Leadership Development this week with my colleague Michael Couch at the Bayer Center here in Pittsburgh.
At the opening of the session I asked the participants how many of them considered themselves leaders. About 30% of the participants immediately raised their hands with another 25% tentatively raising their hands and the remaining 45% keeping their hands down. This is a pretty typical response I get when I ask that question. However, 100% of the participants were or had been leaders sometime in their career. Even the woman who was a volunteer at the Bayer Center had been head of an HR department earlier in her career. And the person who was head of a very important human service organization was one of those folks who was unsure if she should acknowledge her leadership stature.
The funny thing is that I understand all three groups. I often times don’t see myself as a leader and might prefer to be in a support role to the person who is out in front. But I also know, for example, that Tuesday morning from 9-12 I had to be a leader so that I was making sure this workshop had direction and ideas that would provide value to the participants. But given that question, I would always raise my hand because I know that I take on leadership roles more often than not.
Being able to name the leadership role whether its as a manager, boss, parent or community volunteer is important. If you are heading up a committee at your church or synagogue, you are providing leadership.
Claiming the role is the next important feature and is probably the toughest. “Yes I am the leader” is challenging to say considering all the responsibilities that accompany it but raising your hand is amazingly powerful.
Now that you have it, what are you going to do with it. Aiming your leadership in a manner that is responsible and effective is the third part of the equation and is where the rubber meets the road.
For most of us we assume leadership responsibilities every day. As long as you are going to have the job make sure you can name and then, please, raise your hand!
A not-so-quiet change in happening in non-profit organizations across the country. Due to government funding cutbacks, increasing needs of clients in our communities and a need for organizations to adapt to new business models, these non-profits have to look at changes across all levels of their organizations.
Among the most important change that can be enacted is how the Boards of Directors conduct business, engage in the success of the organization and support the administration in creating a successful workplace. In the past, Boards of Directors primary job was oversee their fiduciary responsibility, hire the Executive Director and perhaps help fundraise. They would attend an annual strategic planning sessions where they would conduct a SWOT analysis (identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and come up with ideas on what the agency can do for the next year. Attending monthly or quarterly meetings usually meant sitting through a bunch of reports and oftentimes not feeling like they were making a significant contribution to a cause they believed in.
According to a study by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, there are 5 ideas about how to make non-profit boards exciting places to be…and ones that make a real difference in our community: