Monday, September 28, 2015

Why Doesn’t Carly Fiorina Tout her Leadership of Good360?

During Carly Fiorina’s rise to the top tier of GOP Presidential candidates, much discussion has centered on her time at the helm of HP and whether that tumultuous experience was an example of success or failure as a leader.  Given all of this discussion, I have been perplexed as to why she has done little to tout her role as board chair at Good360, particularly given the organization’s size and solid reputation.

For the uninitiated, Good360 is a nonprofit organization focused on facilitating corporate donations of goods to charities.  In a sense it is a middleman, but it serves a particular role by developing corporate partnerships and helping direct corporate donations to operating nonprofits whose needs match the goods provided by corporations.  The focused mission is an admirable one that has seen substantial success.  In numbers terms, the over $319 million in program expenses and a program expense ratio above 99% in its most recent financials are equally impressive.

With all of this to brag about, why haven’t we heard much from the candidate on this leadership role?  A look at the financials reveals a few possible reasons.
  • Despite a strong revenue stream and success in demonstrating program spending, the Fiorina years do not reflect growth but, if anything, stagnation.  Below are the average revenues and program expenses for Good360 in the five years prior to Fiorina taking over as board chair as well as the two since then (as reported in the organization’s Form 990; the 2014 financials have not yet been released).

  • The organization’s financial cushion (reflected in the “net asset” balance) has also shrunk since Fiorina took center stage.  Though there are good reasons (much of their net assets reflect as-of-yet-received pledges rather than investment funds), the trend nonetheless makes it hard to tell a story of a leader emphasizing financial conservatism.

  • Last but surely not least, the Good360 financial filings indicate that in her role as board chair, Fiorina devoted about 2 hours a week.  While also easily explained by those aware of the operations of nonprofits, this figure makes it hard to reconcile with any claims of hands-on leadership.  The numbers instead suggest that the CEO, who herself dedicates 45 hours a week, is more likely to be one to be deserving of such credit.
Am I saying that the evidence indicates a failure of leadership? No. What I am saying is that if one wants to tout Fiorina's leadership success at Good360, it will require a look beyond baseline metrics – a deep dive into the organization's operations and its nuances – something not particularly well-suited for a political campaign.