Sunday, September 7, 2008

Is Your Cause a Commodity?

Have you noticed? We live in a world of COMMODITIES. Whether it's peanut butter, toilet paper, or a blind date - the UNBELIEVABLE variety of stuff out here makes it VERY difficult to discern the DIFFERENCE between A, B, or C. And this commodification of our world isn't particular to traditional products or services, it extends to charities too.

Just because you DO GOOD STUFF doesn't mean that there is a qualitative difference between your youth development program and the one down the street. You both have great counselors, activities and clients. And that's the kicker! As your prospective donor, employee, customer, and client, I don't know how to tell you and your neighbor apart. Most important: I don't know WHY I should INVEST in you over the others.

You've go to except the fact that there are LOTS of people and organizations that do what you do. (This is not about being hopeless; it's about being realistic.) Next, you've got to do some serious thinking about how to DIFFERENTIATE or MOVE ON.

Here are my ideas for determining how to STAND OUT. I'd love to hear your thoughts as well.

1. Learn about your "competitors." Who are the leaders in your space? What do they do different? What do you do that they don't?

2. Find your hedgehog, a term coined by Jim Collins. This is the intersection of what you do best, make money (donations) doing, and LOVE to do.

3. Be willing to CELEBRATE and LET GO of stuff that others do better.

4. Refine your focus and then stick with it! Press all of your resources into being "narrow" rather than "WIDE."

5. Ask for help. Not sure what you do best? Ask your donors, volunteers, clients and employees for their feedback. BE OPEN to their insights and let them guide you.

Again, most of us (90%) are competing in a VERY CROWDED marketplace. Don't ignore this reality or let it disappoint. Instead, learn from others. Let their experience guide you and use their feedback to stand out from the rest.



debbieweil said...


LOVE the new design! Also like this post a lot. It's easy to forget that going narrower is better than going "wide." I love the hedgehog matrix. Overlaying the narrow / wide with what you love / what you do best. Again, kudos! said...

I agree that this is a great topic for a post. With my nonprofit clients, I can't stress enough that new organizations shuld not be created if they simply duplicate the efforts being made by other. Uniqueness is a key to success!

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