Bill Shore joined a small group of 30 university faculty, staff, students, and local nonprofit organization employees for lunch at the Campus Center on November 5. He was the latest guest to speak as part of the McCormack Leadership Series sponsored by UMass Boston’s John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.
Shore is the founder and chairman of Community Wealth Ventures and the founder and executive director of Share Our Strength, one of the nation's leading anti-hunger and anti-poverty organizations. Since its founding in 1984, Share Our Strength has raised more than $375 million to help combat child hunger.
With his outside-the-box strategies, Shore imparted words of wisdom about his organization and leadership lessons on important planning and management decisions.
“Share Our Strength does not compete for scarce funding from foundations, government, or deep-pocket donors,” he said. Instead, two-thirds of the organization's funding comes from corporate sponsors like American Express and Fiji Water. In addition to funding anti-hunger programs, they partner with restaurants and chefs to train parents on how to purchase and prepare low-cost, nutritious meals.
Shore explained that his nonprofit asks questions about its own strategic goals, even when the organization is doing well. “We had to stop and ask, ‘How do we define success?’ ‘Are we going in the right direction?’ and ‘When do we know when we are done?'"
Share Our Strength adopted a strategy attributed to educator and activist Jonathan Kozol, namely, to ‘pick battles big enough to matter and small enough to win.'" Share Our Strength planted “a powerful stake in the ground” to end child hunger by 2020, then later revised their timeline to 2015.
During the last half of his speech, Shore shared five lessons learned in the process of building the entrepreneurial organization he directs and from corporate and nonprofit boards on which he sits.
First, with the motto of “go big or go home,” Shore told the audience to set “bold but believable goals.” Second, using the example of putting on your own oxygen mask on an airplane before you help others in need, he shared his thoughts on “capacity equals impact.” He told the audience that planning, branding, and financial acumen all contribute to an organization’s capacity which drives its ability to be impactful. Third, he shared lessons on being accountable in a competitive environment and the need for benchmarks and data to measure the return on investment. Next, a “really robust public policy component is needed” for nonprofits to succeed. He spoke of the government-funded food stamps and school lunch programs which share in their mission to end child hunger. Finally, Shore said, “although you always hear about collaboration, you must also compete to be more effective." He used the example of Timberland Boots which is purposefully organized to compete at every level – boots, fashion, retail, staffing levels, branding, and reputation.
Shore acknowledged that his organization still faces challenges and trade offs every day but by holding up examples of what works well, others can learn from the leadership lessons of Share Our Strength.
In closing, he added, “We do what we can do and do it well.”