Good Habits: An Incomplete and Ongoing List

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When Norman Armour founded PuSh International Performing Arts Festival he created a list of good habits that he wanted to instill in the new organization.

In June this year, Norman joined Vantage Point and the City of Vancouver in sharing some of his experiences and wisdom with 150 not-for-profit leaders, including his list of good habits that his organization strives to live by. In the spirit of creating opportunities for leaders to share their knowledge with each other, we are publishing his full (unedited) list.

Good Habits: An Incomplete and Ongoing List

•    Conduct with the executive director a 360 each and every year

•    Conduct annual performance reviews with permanent employees

•    Conduct exit interviews with all contractors

•    Review all job descriptions annually

•    Recruit a board of a size that has energy and momentum and private sector fundraising capacity

•    Dispel the myth that boards need to be “managed”, that big boards are a problem

•    View human resources as a thing of the board and volunteers as much as it is of management

•    Carry out strategic planning regularly and bring in outside help to assist; when outside help is not necessary or fundable, plan anyways

•    Have one budget, followed by ongoing updated projections, not a “fundraising” budget for external use and a “working” one for internal use

•    Create a cash reserve to allow for investing in timely and important artistic initiatives

•    Have in place terms of reference for all aspects of the board and its processes

•    Create a Contingency Toolkit

•    Suss out “founders syndrome”

•    Create a Succession Strategy for both the executive director and board president

•    Treat board members as equals, deserving respect, honesty and transparency

•    Write grants not at the last minute, but with enough time to properly consider, and re-consider what the goals, objectives and rationale is of the   thing for which support is being sought (i.e. clarity of thinking things through)

•    Have in place timelines and critical paths that everyone sees themselves in and has a stake in

•    Foster good thinking; good numbers will follow

•    Regularly schedule staff meetings

•    Regularly schedule meetings of senior management

•    Write reports for board meetings and distribute them in time to expect them to be read in advance

•    Have in place a full human resource policy that each employee signs off on

•    Ask, ask and ask individuals for money—it gets easier with practice

•    Learn how to do it graciously, and to accept a “no” graciously

•    Treat your fellow staff as true collaborators

•    Listen

•    Listen

•    Listen

•    Humour

•    Listen

•    Don’t shy away from disagreement; honour it

•    Never treat what might be the beginning of a long term relationship as a disappointment when it doesn’t answer an immediate need

•    Remember it is never as good as you wish, nor as bad as you fear

•    Have a genuine interest in the well being of the people around you; it’s as important if not more important than the work being done

•    “Done is better than perfect” (Sheryl Sandberg)

We love Norman’s focus on good people practices.

AND we would change: “Ask, ask and ask individuals for money” to “Ask, ask and ask individuals for time, talent and treasure”.

What would you add or change to this list?

If you’d like to connect with Norman Armour, Artistic and Executive Director of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival you can email him at, follow him on twitter or find him on LinkedIn.

About the Author

Annastasia Forst contributed her creative and analytic work ethic (not an oxymoron) to Vantage Point as a past Director of Learning. She is passionate about working with many talented knowledge philanthropists to develop, deliver and evaluate Vantage Point’s board and executive leadership...

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