Saturday, December 29, 2012

Without Great Execution, Strategy is Just Good Intentions

A strategy - whether in companies or life - is created through hundreds of everyday decisions about how you spend your time, energy, and money.  With every moment of your time, every decision about how you spend your energy and your money, you are making a statement about what really matters to you.  You can talk all you want about having a clear purpose and strategy for your life, but ultimately this means nothing if you are not investing the resources you have in a way that is consistent with your strategy.  In the end, strategy is nothing but good intentions unless it's effectively implemented.
- How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clay Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon
I can't put down - How Will You Measure Your Life? - the fantastic, new book by Harvard professor, Clay Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon.

This quick and engaging read is a important addition to the self-help and business literature.  And has my juices flowing! 

Instead of offering anecdotes on how to live your best life, or become a better leader, Christensen, et al. share and apply proven business theories, such as resource allocation process and directive and emergent strategy to help us guide and predict outcomes in both our professional and PERSONAL lives.

I LOVED the quote above from Chapter 4 - Your Strategy Is Not What You Say It Is - because I have long believed that execution (what you DO and how you DO it) trumps strategy (what you SAY you're doing) any day!

We ALL have good intentions.
"I want my children to be healthy, happy and productive."

"I want to help people who are struggling and in need."

"I want to make a real difference with my career."

"I want to be a great mentor and leader."
The problem is, intentions are meaningless unless you CONSISTENTLY put your weight (time, talent and treasure) behind them.

The real question is, how can we be people who align strategy (intention) with execution (action) to ensure that we live good lives? 

Here are my reflections, based on the book.
  • Watch where your resources flow, especially time.  Like taking an audit of your financials, spend a month monitoring how you spend your time.  What do you do with that extra 1/2 hour?  How do you spend your weekends?  Who/what gets the bulk of your attention? After this audit, decide if you are spending your time in the right way and make adjustments as needed.
  • Focus on the small stuff - So many decisions we make seem small and tactical (because they ARE!). Therefore, it's easy to miss the fact that the small stuff adds up over time.  Skipping a night of reading to your kids.  Cancelling a dinner date with your partner.  Working late.  Not recognizing an employee's contribution.  In isolation, none of these actions will make or break your future, but over time the small stuff ads up and forms a pattern of behavior that is hard to change.  Don't neglect the small stuff.  Be INTENTIONAL about these interactions. 
  • Think long vs. short-term - Make decisions (and ACT) based on your long-term strategy not just to achieve short-term pleasure or gain.  Stay focused on where you want to land 5, 10 or 20 years from now vs. next month.  This is hard to do!  It's easy to eat a delicious, nutty, creamy chocolate bar now :) vs. stay on a healthy eating plan to ensure long-term fitness.  It's easy to skip a tough meeting and avoid conflict now vs. continuing to work through tough issues and build an enduring, collegial relationship.  While it takes discipline to prioritize a long-term gain over a short-term fix, having a long-term outlook is crucial to both personal and professional success.  
To succeed in life means more than having good intentions, it means employing a daily discipline of activities and interactions to drive your future forward.  Don't just preach about your plans and wax on about your strategy.  ACT in alignment with who you want to be and where you want to go. This is the stuff of success!



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Upgrade Your Sales aka Fundraising Skills This Year: Read Dan Pink's New Book!

The first marketing book up for me in 2013 is To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink.

Pink is a great writer and thinker.  Maybe you have already experienced his genius in Drive or A Whole New Mind?

I'm interested in learning more about how we can get better at influencing vs. pitching donors and making them feel passionate about our causes.

To learn more about the book, watch the trailer above or download the introduction by subscribing to his e-newsletter via his site.

Here's to honing our sales and fundraising skills this year in order to keep the donors we already have and bring new ones into the family!



Saturday, December 22, 2012

I Miss You and Great Holiday Gift for You: A FREE Book!

Hi Friends,

I apologize for being MIA lately.  I miss you! 

I have an AMAZING new job leading and fundraising again and have been busy with year-end and this (SHAMELESS PLUG) amazing appeal.

I intend to get back on the blogging bandwagon NOW.  Look for weekly posts from me on Leadership, Fundraising and/or Nonprofit Marketing.

Today's killer find is this fantastic offer from Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book

As you can read below, she's giving away her book for $0.00 or FREE!  You can download it now or order it on Amazon and read it online.

Go ahead. Download it. I'll wait...

I read CBB many years ago but it's still one of my favorites on the who, what, why, when and how of blogging.  If you are thinking about starting a blog for your nonprofit next year (and you should be if you have the bandwith), read Debbie's book over the holidays.

A small gift for you

The Corporate Blogging Book - Updated Ed.The best holiday gift I can offer is that you enjoy the pause between Christmas and New Year's (whether or not you officially celebrate). It's a time for reflection and small wins.

But I also want to give you a small gift to enjoy on your Kindle (or other device). The updated edition of The Corporate Blogging Book is $0.00 on Amazon for the next few days.

Click here to download my 218-page book for $0.00.

In other book news, I'm crazy for Authentic Leadership (another oldie but goodie) by Bill George of Harvard Business School and former CEO of Medtronic.  You'll have to buy this one but it's worth it!

Leading a team and serving others is the hardest and most joyful calling I can imagine.  George shows us how to do it profitably with passion, perseverance and humility.  I hope you will check it out!

Finally, this great poem, What Constitutes Success? by Bessie Anderson Stanley, touches my heart and is my mantra for 2013.  What's yours?

"To laugh often and love much:
to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children;
to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to give of one's self;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived - this is to have succeeded."

Much love to you and yours this holiday season!



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Want to Grow Your Email List for FREE? Enter AdLead the Way Today!

Acquisition, or finding new donors, volunteers, or advocacy supporters for your cause, is not easy (or inexpensive) but it is something you must do if you want your nonprofit to grow and stay healthy.

There are myriad ways to prospect for new donors, including snail mail, events, banner ads and now MOBILE.

Lucky for you, the folks at Pontiflex launched a new contest, called AdLead the Way to help nonprofits build their email lists via mobile ad campaigns.

Enter today to win 1,000 new email signups for FREE!

Deadline to enter is November 15.

Here is how it works:
  1. Head on over to the contest website.
  2. Submit a mobile signup ad from your group.  See below for examples of signup ads from other nonprofits.  (You can also submit your creative by emailing!)
That's it!

The three nonprofits with the best creative will each win a free mobile ad campaign for 1,000 email signups.  Winners will be announced on November 27!

Good luck!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lose Your Gut! Get Serious About Measurement.

This is not a post about how to lose ten pounds in two weeks.  You'll have to head over to Jillian Michaels to learn more about that.  Instead, it's a post about abandoning your heart and using your head to run your nonprofit.

Yes, I said it.  You have to use your head to run a nonprofit. 

While PASSION and HEART should drive your communications and fundraising, everything you do should also be backed by data and analytics - the HEAD STUFF.  And this means creating a "data-informed" or measurement-based culture.

In their fabulous new book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine put it this way,
"Getting started on the path to becoming a data-informed nonprofit is a matter of having some important internal conversations.  It is not just about having new inspiration about measurement or working with new tools; it means thinking differently about the organization and how it works...Measurement is a formal discipline, governed by rules and processes established by academics and researchers...No matter what your program or campaign - be it an event, a Facebook page, a messaging campaign, or a donor outreach program - there are seven basic steps for doing good measurement and getting valid and actionable results."
They then continue with an illumination of a seven-step measurement process.


I'm tired of hearing that nonprofits are all mission and no measurement.  And I'm frustrated that the sector gets a bad rep because we "don't run like businesses."

But when I speak to nonprofit leaders, I'm often dismayed by the lack of rigor they apply to their programs.
Me: Why did you start this program?
Ans: We got a grant.

Me: What is the goal?
Ans: Oh, we don't really have a goal, we just want to help in the community.

Me: How much does the program cost?
Ans:  It's FREE!  We have volunteers who do all the work.
Me: How do you measure success?
Ans: I'm not sure what you mean.
This is not a rant (well maybe it is) but if we really want to run high-performing organizations that can scale and achieve results, we've simply got to get better at measurement, i.e. defining our goals, audiences, benchmarks, metrics and costs and EVALUATING our success or lack thereof.  We also need to STOP doing activities and programs that don't work!

Measurement helps us get out of our hearts and into our heads.  It can positively transform the way we work.  See A Dozen Reasons that Measurement is Powerful by Kanter and Paine below.

If you're looking for a silver bullet, if you want to improve your results TODAY, begin a culture shift at your nonprofit.  Marry your passion for your work with measurement.  And stop relying on your gut alone to drive decisions.  You should also read Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World.

Then go out and do what you do best with your head and your heart!



A Dozen Reasons that Measurement is Powerful
  1. It gives you feedback so you know you are headed in the right direction (or not!)
  2. It stimulates ideas on what to do next.
  3. It helps you document results, so, for instance, you can show your boss that you're not "just wasting time on Facebook."
  4. It gives you a credible way to report back to funders and stakeholders.
  5. It helps you learn what tools and techniques work best.
  6. It saves you time, because you're not wasting it on efforts that don't get results.
  7. It attracts success by helping you plan for it.  And it tells you when you achieve it.
  8. It helps you raise more money.
  9. It helps you work smarter.
  10. It fuels your passion for your work.
  11. It generates excitement for your mission.
  12. It helps you change the world.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Learn How to Tell Your Organization's Story: Register Today for a FREE Webinar

My frolleauges at Care2 are hosting a FREE webinar this Thursday, October 18th at 2:00pm ET featuring Jonah Sachs, CEO of Free Range Studios and author of Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future. (This is one of the best books of 2012!)

If you need help telling your organization's story (and who doesn't?), register now!

In this webinar you will learn:
  • What the story wars are and why you need to join the fray!
  • The 5 deadly sins of marketing and how to avoid them
  • 3 steps for engaging in "empowerment marketing," including identifying your organizational values, telling the truth and being interesting
  • How to create your own Story Strategy Map
Learn more and register today!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Don't Talk Trash, Use Every Communication to Connect and 8 Other Lessons for Becoming a Better Leader Today!

I had the privilege of reviewing Deirdre Maloney's second book - Tough Truths: The Ten Leadership Lessons We Don't Talk About.  (She's a powerhouse!)  You can also read another review of the book on Forbes.

It's a short monograph that you can read on the train to work next week and I hope you will because it's chock full of great (if painful!) advice on how to improve your leadership skills TODAY.

Here are my favorite truths.  Buy the book to read the rest.

Truth 10: Great Leaders Insist on Excellent, Pristine Communication

If you're one of those folks (you know who you are!) who write one word emails with no salutation or close, don't sign your correspondence, are short in meetings, etc. - Stop Now.  Communication must become your strong suit if you are going to become a great leader.  Why?  Because it is your opportunity to CONNECT with others! 

Treat every communication as special.  Say "hello" to the recipient via email, phone or in person.  Ask about a recent trip or vacation.  Say "thank you."  As a leader, you have tons of work to squeeze into a short day.  Still, don't underestimate or squander the "small" interactions.  Instead, use these moments as precious opportunities to connect with others.  It will leave a lasting and positive impression.

Truth 8: Great Leaders Never, Ever Talk Trash

If you're a processor, like me, this may be one of the hardest truths to embody, learn, and PRACTICE.  Still, you must start (or should I say stop) today - don't talk trash!

We all know folks (including ourselves!) who talk about others.  Who bond with others by trashing their colleagues, bosses, board members, etc.  It's a UNIVERSAL but BAD practice (have you seen a reality show lately?) because it makes you/me/us appear untrustworthy and leaks bad energy out in the world.  This is not helpful for anyone.  As Deirdre says,
"Talking trash makes you a trash talker.  If you've done it once, you've done it twice... and you will become known for it.  People won't trust you, won't go one level deeper with you.  Perhaps worst of all, they'll respect you less."  (Ouch!)
Aspire today to be impeccable with your speech.  Learn to be silent.  Count to ten.  Breathe.  Not talking can feel awkward, especially if you're an extrovert, but it can also be a relief to know that you don't have to comment on EVERYONE and EVERYTHING.  Plus, it's a good to pause and reflect before speaking.  It will make you a better communicator (see Truth 10 above), a better role model for your team, and add more positive energy to the world!

Truth 4: Every Single Person, Even the Greatest Leader Out There, is Afraid

Leadership is NOT about getting and doing everything right.  It's about getting better every day.  And we only do this when we stretch our wings and take risks, which is scary.

Don't kid yourself into thinking that some people are fearless.  They're not.  They just act that way.

Be brave, take heart, and follow Deirdre's advice below.
"Pay attention to the great leaders you know.  Know that they are afraid.  Watch how they act anyway.  Be inspired to do the same."
Leadership is a HARD and rewarding art.  While being a leader comes with amazing privileges and opportunities - you can effect more change in the world, you can have a lasting and positive impact in the lives of others, etc.  Leadership is NOT a bed of roses.  And the process of becoming a great leader takes a lot of work!

Thanks to Deirdre for giving it to us straight and helping us to become better every day so that we can, as she says, "do good, well."



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

PASSION: The Secret to Successful Fundraising

My church launched its annual stewardship campaign last week.

This is a time when every member of our congregation is asked to reflect on our time, talent and treasure and determine how we want to give back.  While we're supposed to reflect on the use of all of our resources, stewardship campaigns always turn into fundraising drives, because in the end of the day, churches - like nonprofits - need MONEY to pay for programs, salaries, rent, etc.

Let's not begrudge this fact.  Let's simply become better fundraisers!

So how do we ensure that our stewardship and fundraising campaigns are a success?


Say it after me.  "Fundraising is all about tapping into another person's PASSION for a cause."  It doesn't matter what the cause is - feeding the poor, finding alternative sources of energy, or healing broken hearts.  PASSION is the underpinning of philanthropy.

Thus, a first step for all fundraisers is to LEARN what makes our donors feel great!
  • Why are they excited about our work?  
  • What makes their hearts' sing?   
  • What inspires them to be more generous?
In the for-profit sector, we conduct market research to understand what people want, how they want it, when, and why.

We need similar analyses of donor motivation in the charitable sector.

Money for Good: The U.S. Market for Impact Investments and Charitable Gifts from Individual Donors and Investors by Hope Consulting is a great start.  Check out this excellent report to learn more about what motivates donors and use this information to segment your database and create relevant communications, activities, and events that inspire more giving.

Here's the point: Don't fly blind when it comes to understanding why your donors give.  Instead, ASK about and LISTEN to your donor's concerns and fill your appeals with more PASSION!

Happy Fundraising!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Make Year-End a "Yes!" Instead of a "Yuck!" Answer These 4 Questions in Every Appeal

You already know this but Year-end is THE MOST IMPORTANT time for fundraising.  It can make or break your annual budget. 

According to Blackbaud, 20% of giving happens in December.

According to Network for Good, December giving can be as high as 33%!

How do you ensure that Year-end is a "Yes!" instead of a "Yuck!"  Answer these 4 questions in every appeal.
  • What for?
  • Why me?
  • Why now?
  • Who says?
What for?

It sounds obvious but EVERY appeal you issue (at Year-end and all year long) must describe the purpose of the donation - the more specific the better.  People want to know what their donation will DO in the world and how it will effect change. 

Why me?

People also want to know why they are being solicited and why they should care about making a donation.  This question is not easy to answer because different people have different motivations for giving.  For example, some folks are looking for a tax deduction, especially at Year-end, while others are motivated by altruism.  You need to approach "Why me?" as an empirical question.  Learn about your donors and ask them why they give to some charities vs. others.  Then use this data to tailor your appeals and make your Year-end messaging relevant.

Why now?

By it's very nature, Year-end offers a perfect answer to the question - Why Now? Because Year-end is all about a specific time of year - Giving Season!  Your donors know that it is Year-end.  (They see all the decorations at Target too!)  Still, it's OK to remind them.

Who says?  

In fundraising, the messenger is often more important than the message.  Want to lift response rates?  Give donors examples of who else gives and why.  Donor's Choose does a great job of this.  See below. 

"Social proof" helps donors to feel confident about supporting your charity.  It also helps them feel like they are part of a generous community!



Friday, October 5, 2012

Who Inspires You?

Who inspires you?

Who encourages you to have an open heart, take risks, speak your truth, and keep going...

Inspiration is one of the best qualities in ourselves and others, no?  We need it.  Especially when  working in tough situations and with people who are suffering.

It's HARD to stay positive and enthusiastic and engaged in life.  That is why it is so important to seek out others who make us smile, relax, and REMEMBER that even though life is full of struggle it is also so good!  It's also why it's important to practice inspiring others!

Here are a few of the women who inspire me.  Some I know IRL (in real life).  Some I only FEEL I know because their writing and work has touched my heart.

Who inspires you to get up every day and do the life-giving work that you do?  I look forward to your comments.

Warmest regards,

  • Jackie Coyle, Executive Director of Shepherd's Table - a Silver Spring institution - leads the team to feed 100+ homeless people every night of the year - rain or shine.  Her philanthropic spirit, i.e. her love of humankind comes through every time I see or hear her speak.
  • Sarah Miles, author of Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead and Founder of the Food Pantry at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, California, is also a feeder.  Under her leadership, the Food Pantry provides fresh, wholesome and FREE food to over 1,000 people every week.  I love her irony and her practical wisdom.
  • Pemo Chodron, author of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times and many more books and CD's is a Buddhist nun and Director of Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia.  I appreciate her wisdom and teaching on how to transform our suffering into "good medicine" by becoming more compassionate toward ourselves and others.
  • Finally, I'm inspired by Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection and researcher and writer on the power of vulnerability.  Her talks on how to live with a WHOLE HEART have touched millions people and remind us that the only way to connect deeply with others is to share all of who we are.  I appreciate her vulnerability!  

Monday, October 1, 2012

5 Steps for Goal-Setting Success

I had a fascinating conversation with a friend last week who runs a very successful company.
"I hate setting goals," he said.

"Why?" I replied.

"If I set a goal for 10% annual growth and we hit 8% I'll be disappointed.  But 8% growth is nothing to sniff at, especially in this economy.  The thing with goals is that they can set you up for failure or success.  And how you set goals is as important as the goals you set."
The conversation got me thinking.

Goal setting is one of the most critical keys to success both personally and professionally.  Any change management book or program from Jenny Craig to Couch to 5K to Finding Your Soul Mate will tell you that having and articulating a concrete goal is critical to success.  Still, my friend is right that goal setting, while critical, is not easy.  And, in fact, if done poorly it can backfire.

How many times have you given up on your personal goals because they were too aggressive?  How many businesses tank because they set and fail to meet unrealistic projections?  It's important to realize that goal setting is both science and art.  Here are my tips for how to set and ACHIEVE your organizational goals!

Step 1: Understand the Past

Every goal setting exercise should begin with an intimate understanding of the past.  What have we done before?  How much can we move the needle?  When we've raised the bar in the past what good and bad happened?  I'm not saying that you have to be wedded to past results or that the past determines your future but you do have to a sense of realistic optimism about what can and cannot be achieved and this comes from having a deep understanding of how the organization has performed in the past and WHY.

Step 2: Involve the People Who Do the Work

In almost every context, the achievement of goals is dependent on many people.  Even a "personal" weight loss program is not a singular endeavor.  For example, in order to lose weight, you need to change your eating habits and exercise more.  This means working with your partner and kids to budget for and buy different foods and make time to get to the gym.

In organizations, goal setting and achievement is even more complex because it involves many people and systems.  This is why it is critical to INVOLVE the people responsible for goal achievement in the goal setting process.

For example, before setting your annual fundraising goals, ask your Database Associate what it will mean to increase the size of your database three-fold.  How will this affect her workload, processes and the timing of Thank You gifts?  Ask your Communications Manager, what it will take to increase traffic to your site and what she needs to do it.  Ask your Major Gifts Officer how many more prospects he can successfully steward and close.

These insights, driven by the people who do the work, will help you accomplish three things.  First, as a leader, you'll gain a greater understanding of the possibilities and challenges inherent in moving the needle.  Second, you'll gain the respect of your team for involving them in the process.  Third, you'll help ensure that your team feels OWNERSHIP for achievement of results.

Step 3: Understand and Budget for Critical Dependencies

In addition to understanding how goal setting affects the people in your organization, you must understand the structural changes that will make your goal a fantasy or reality.  For example, if you want to launch a new online giving program to diversify and increase giving, you may have to purchase technology to enable donation processing and build ongoing relationships with your new donors.  If you want to develop a new event, you'll need to understand expenses for space rental and electronic ticketing.

Step 4: Don't Set it and Forget It

One of the critical mistakes we make when setting goals is setting and then forgetting them.   New professional and personal issues arise and we get distracted.

If you want to achieve your goals, you have to be a good goal setter and you also have to be good at EXECUTING and MONITORING your progress.  Create milestones on your route to the end of the rainbow.  For example, if you want to increase your annual fundraising goal by 10 percent, this means that you'll have to increase your donor base too.

Use these milestones to evaluate progress and be willing to increase or decrease goals based on an audit of your performance.

Remember goals are projections aka guesses.  And stuff happens.  Projects get delayed, people get sick and go on vacation, etc..  As a leader, you have to be willing and able to change course when plans go awry.

Step 5: Plan for Success

Several years ago, I ran a very successful award program to recognize nonprofits making innovative use of technology.  It was so successful that we tripled the number of applicants for the program.  This was GREAT and HARD because I didn't plan for success.  As a result, the night before the summaries were due to the judges, I was up until midnight processing applications. :(

In addition to setting good goals, remember to plan for success.  What will it look like when you double the number of individual donors to your organization?  How will you manage your new giving circle?  These are great problems to have but they are problems nonetheless.

The bottom line is that goal setting is all about change and change is hard and does not happen in a void. Use the steps above to become a better leader and manager and ensure you hit your targets every time! 



Thursday, September 13, 2012

FREE Webinar for You on How and Why You Need to Build Your Email List

Building a nonprofit is not easy.  You need a compelling mission that matters to others, good management and, of course, money. 

You also need a market to "sell" to.  For nonprofits, this means you have to build a base of prospective donors to engage in your cause. 

I've talked about donor acquisition and list building on the blog and in other places

Today I want to highlight a FREE webinar on Tuesday, September 18 from 2:00 - 3:00 ET from the super smart folks at Copyblogger.  It's called From New List to Critical Mass: Grow Your Audience Without Content Marketing.  

According to Copyblogger, in this webinar you will learn:
  • What is a Minimum Viable Audience, and why you want one 
  • The right ingredients to organically grow a healthy opt-in list
  • How minimum is minimum?
  • Reading your audience’s mind: the right and wrong way
  • What the "lean startup" trend can teach you about building an audience 
Register today.  It's FREE!



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The 5 Steps to Running a Successful Business aka Nonprofit

Running a nonprofit is no small feat and that is why I appreciate Josh Kaufman's five rules for making your organization a success.  (Isn't it lovely when you find an elegant concept that simplifies the complex?!)

According to Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, every business MUST do the following to be viable.  He's talking about for-profits but his ideas apply to any thriving organization, including nonprofits.
  1. Deliver value that OTHER people want.  Every successful business provides something - of value - services, products, ideas - to others.  The operative word here is OTHER. Value is in the eye of the beholder.
  2. Tell people about this value.  Every successful business TELLS people about the value they offer.  This is also called Marketing.
  3. Sell this value.  Every successful business gets MONEY in exchange for the value they provide.  This is called Sales in for-profits and Fundraising in nonprofits.
  4. Deliver this value.  Now that you "told me and sold me."  You have to deliver!  Every successful business does what they say they will do to keep customers and donors happy!
  5. Manage your finances, especially cash!  Money is not an end in itself but it is a MEANS to an end.  If you want to be able to improve your products and services, enter new markets, raise more money for your programs, capitalize your grantees, and pay your employees, you need cash!  Every successful business figures out how to manage money and bring in more cash than goes out!
That's it!

Of course, that's not quite it.  Running a business aka a nonprofit is a little more difficult.  Still, I agree with Kaufman, that at its core, this is what organization-building is all about.  Follow these five steps and you will succeed!



Monday, September 3, 2012

Want to Achieve Something Great? Remember WHY Your Organization Exists in the First Place.

Thomas Friedman had a very compelling editorial in the New York Times on Sunday called, It's Still Halftime in America.  Here is the introduction.
"I sat through three days of speeches at the Republican convention here, but I confess that my mind often drifted off to thinking about Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon.
Armstrong’s passing really touched me, especially coinciding as it did with this election. Why? Because the America that launched Armstrong was an America that was embarked on a great and inspiring journey — one that spawned breakthroughs in science, medicine, computing and physics that made our country, and the world, a better place. What journey are we on today? Balancing the budget? Expanding health insurance? These are vital tools, but healthy to go where and balanced to do what?"
Don't worry.  Friedman is not bashing the Republican Party and neither am I.

Instead, Friedman is frustrated with the lack of VISION from BOTH parties.  This struck and resonated with me.

This is not a political blog.  Instead, I'm sharing Friedman's piece with you because I think he is on to something very important - the Why.

As leaders, we have to want more than a WIN, we need to remember WHY we are fighting in the first place. 

Raising more money.  Engaging more members.  Increasing the budget.  Working long and hard nights.  These are noble pursuits IF they help us to achieve our missions.

Never forget that we fundraise, market, sell, and engage more members in order to achieve an END, i.e. to ensure that fewer children go to sleep hungry at night.  To get better health care for the elderly.  To clean the air.

Don't fall into the political trap of getting stuck on winning for its' own sake.  Never forget WHY you do the work you do.  Keep it front and center in your heart and mind.  This will surely help you, your colleagues and your organization to reach the moon.

Warmest regards,


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Want to Engage More Women in Your Cause: Try Pinterest

If a picture is worth a thousand words then you may want to check out Pinterest for your nonprofit.

Pinterest is a newish social network that according to the site, lets you "organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.  Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests."

I know.  I know.  Another social network.  Where will you find the time?  How will you measure the ROI?

Good questions!

Still, check out these stats.

Pinterest is now ranked 41st in the world for most trafficked websites.  (This means that Pinterest gets more traffic than!)  Also, it's a haven for women ages 18 - 34.

If you're trying to reach young women, in particular, and you can squeeze a little more time out of your day, Pinterest may be a great way for you to drive more traffic to your site, generate new email sign-ups, showcase the people and spirit behind your nonprofit, and just plain have a little fun!

To learn more about Pinterest or start "pinning" today, check out Steal These 42 Creative Pinterest Ideas for Nonprofits and read, How to Use Pinterest for Business by Hubspot.

Also, for inspiration, check out the pinboards for Oxfam America, Heifer International, and AARP!



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What are the Values You Choose to Lead By?

James Kouzes and Barry Posner developed The Leadership Practices Inventory, a survey to ascertain the most important qualities of successful leaders.  Over the past thirty years, over three million respondents have ranked the leadership characteristics that matter to them most.

Can you guess what these qualities are?

People want and follow leaders who are:

  • Honest
  • Future-oriented  
  • Inspiring
  • Competent

If you ponder this for a moment, this seems like such a no brainer. 

Of course, we want our leaders to be honest.  It's hard - no impossible - to follow someone you don't trust. 

Of course, we want our leaders to be future-oriented.  It's hard to follow someone who doesn't know where they are going.

Of course, we want our leaders to be inspiring.  Work is hard and, especially in the nonprofit sector, our battles long.  We want and need the encouragement and can-do attitude that inspiring leaders provide.

Of course, we want our leaders to be competent.  It's hard to follow someone (even the nicest someone) if they don't know what they are doing or can't get things done.

Here is the question that stymies me.

If we know what we want from our leaders (and ourselves!) why is it so hard to find and be the types of leaders who actualize these values in the real world?

The answer is simple.  We're human.  Unfortunately, we're prone to ego, fear, confusion and all kinds of other human emotions that hurt our ability to lead and lead well.

Still, if you aspire to become a better leader (I hope you do!), there are concrete steps you can take to enhance your leadership skills and become a more powerful force for good in the world.

First, create your own leadership code of ethics (see above and mine below) - a simple statement of the values you choose to lead by.

Second, ask for feedback.  Ask trusted advisers, friends, mentors and those you serve how you can improve your leadership and then USE their feedback to improve.

Third, take on leadership roles.  Like any skill, leadership takes practice.  You can't become a better leader in the abstract.  Volunteer at your local church, temple or mosque.  Take on a new challenge at work.  Step up in your family and community to serve others. These experiences provide the training ground for your leadership.

Fourth, read about and take The Leadership Challenge by Posner and Kouzes and join millions of others trying to build a better word.



Here are the principles that guide my leadership.
  • Tell the truth.  
  • Be vulnerable aka admit mistakes.
  • Care deeply about others.
  • Listen well. 
  • Learn as much and as quickly as you can about everything!
  • Express praise.
  • Be passionate.  
  • Have fun.

What are the values that you lead by?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

People Buy People: How Are You Connecting Your Constituents to Your Organization and Each Other?

"You can be part of a well funded startup, have all new planes, a cool product, leather seats, live TV, cool snacks.  But none of it matters.  The people are the are the brand as a person."
- Dave Barger, President and Chief Operating Officer, jetBlue
Why do you go to Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts or Caribou Coffee every morning?  (Don't answer unless this is something that you religiously do.) 

Is it because you can make your own delicious blend of caffeinated juice?  Is it because it's the closest coffee shop to work?  Or is it because you like the other regulars and staff?

Chances are it's a little bit of each - product, place and people - that draws you to your favorite coffee bar.  But I venture to guess that the PEOPLE there have a big influence on you.  If you have a B or B- barista, you'll change shops, maybe even chains, one day.  Conversely, if you know your barista by name, you're likely to become a true believer.

In his awesome book, The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers Into True Believers, Douglas Atkin, makes the very strong case that in this world of commodities, people buy the experience they have with other people - not the products/services alone.
"True and lasting commitment to effected through people. It's all about the "primacy of the person."  What do I mean by primacy of the person?  The conventional wisdom is that people buy ideas or things.  The transaction is between the individual and the object or idea...But we will be handicapping our attempt to build a successful business if we settle for these answers or accept the perceived wisdom of our community.  People buy people.  Of course, they buy into belief systems, whether religious, political, or those devised for brands.  It would be ridiculous to underestimate their importance...But for real commitment, the recruit and existing members need to feel that they have a relationship with "an other" or "others."  The buy-in to the ideology and tangible benefits comes later."
I use a Mac because it makes me feel like I am part of a community of other creative types who are using our brains and energy to create a better world.

I drink a grande, half-caff at Starbucks on weekend mornings because I like the taste (not the price!) of the $2.00 coffee AND I also like being part of my local community.

I shop at Trader Joe's because they stock some of my favorite snacks, but also because the store has such a great, upbeat, and quirky vibe.  The store ambiance and the friendly staff make the dreaded grocery visit less of a chore.

When I think about the causes and charities I support, the same logic applies.  One of the reasons that I give to some nonprofits vs. others is because of who works there and how I FEEL about the community of givers.  In short, my philanthropy is driven by the experience I have with other people involved in the organization in addition to the work that the people in the organization do!

What this means for you

In addition to focusing on the "features and benefits" of your programs, you'd be wise to invest some time and energy thinking about how you are connecting to the constituents in your organization and how they are connecting to each other.

This means moving beyond a transactional approach to fundraising and marketing where you "sell" your programs to an individual to get an email sign-up, event registrant or check.  Instead, this means being in relationship with your supporters and helping them to be in relationship with you!  

You can and probably are creating a community of givers offline.  Through events, walk/run/rides, and house parties you bring donors together and help them to get to know each other and you. 

The great news is that in the Connected Age, you can also use online tools and channels to create rich and inexpensive experiences to bring people together and create long-lasting relationships.

Here are some nonprofits that are doing a good job of connecting people with each other online

How are you using the Internet to build a community of believers?

The Nature Conservancy has created a community of nature photographers who share their love of the earth via sharing pictures of their favorite places.  They run an annual photo contest to highlight and recognize the communities' work.

Charity: Water does a fantastic job of engaging its donors in the water crisis by encouraging them to share the work of the organization via peer-to-peer giving.  In this way, the charity is not just raising more for the organization, it is actually creating greater meaning for and connection between donors.

On their blog, Autism Speaks does a great job of sharing the personal stories of the women, men and children who have been touched by this mysterious disease.  Again, these stories, do more than connect you to the cause, they give you a glimpse into the people who comprise the Autism Community, which helps you to decide whether or not this is the right community for you.

In the nonprofit sector, we're getting better at telling the stories of the people we serve.  We're also getting better at highlighting the impact of our programs and services.  But if we want to create lasting institutions and movements where people feel a deep sense of loyalty and commitment to our causes, we also need to connect people to each other.  We can do this online or offline - the channel doesn't matter.  What does matters is that we never forget that humans are innately social beings.  And in addition to focusing on how and where we spend our time, talent and treasure, we want to know WHO we are spending it with. 

To become a consummate community builder and create intense loyalty toward your nonprofit, read The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers into True Believers by Dan Atkin.



Thursday, August 9, 2012

We are All Sikhs

I am speaking today to a group of nonprofits in Chattanooga, TN and am dedicating my talk to the people who lost their lives in the terrible shooting last week in Wisconsin.

If you too are grieved by this hate crime, please read and sign this petition and share with your friends.

Warm regards,


Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Quotes

In homage to the late, great, leadership-guru, Stephen Covey, author of the awesome 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I share this quote with you today.
"So, what do you want to be when you grow up? 
That question may appear a little trite, but think about it for a moment.
Are you--right now--who you want to be, what you dreamed you'd be, doing what you always wanted to do? 
Be honest.
Sometimes people find themselves achieving victories that are empty--successes that have come at the expense of things that were far more valuable to them.
If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster."
Have a great weekend!

Warmest regards,


Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Quotes

It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.
— George Eliot

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What's on Your Nightstand This Summer?

My frolleagues (friends and former colleagues) at Care2 compiled this great list of nonprofit reads for the summer.  I thought I'd share my contribution with you.

I'm reading The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers Into True Believers by Douglas Atkin.

In this age where we are so focused on personalization, segmentation and one-to-one marketing, I'm eager to be reminded about the power of COMMUNITY and how much we need and crave the meaning and belonging communities provide.  Douglas Atkins studied cults to try to understand how they work and can apply to brands and I would say nonprofits and causes.

We talk about this so much in the nonprofit community but most of us don't do it well.

How do we create a sense of COMMUNITY around our causes?

How do we help our donors, members, advocates, volunteers, board members, clients, etc. feel a PASSIONATE sense of belonging and meaning through their affiliation with our work?

If you can create community, you can create intense loyalty, participation and MOVEMENT for your cause.

To learn more about the book and see Douglas Atkins in action, check him out above.

What are you reading this summer to help improve your fundraising and marketing mojo?


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

FREE Webinar for You Today at 1:00ET - Register Now to Learn How to Tell Your Nonprofit's Story

Join 1,000 of your nonprofit colleagues and make the best use of your lunch break today by registering now for Winning the Story Wars: Why those who tell - and live - the best stories will rule the future at 1:00pm (ET).

You need to register now if:
  • You are looking for a better way to tell your organization's story.
  • You are tired of watching your cause DROWN in the flood of marketing messages that surround us.
  • You're ready to get people to LISTEN to what you have to say and - even better - become evangelists for your cause!
This webinar will be presented by Jonah Sachs, CEO of Free Range Studios and a master storyteller and Katya Andresen, COO/CSO of Network for Good.
We hope you can make it!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Why Are You In It?

Check out this thought-provoking video featuring Jim Collins, author of Great by Choice - the sequel to Good to Great. He makes a persuasive case that people don't follow leaders who are in it for themselves.

Why are you in it?


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Don't Spend Too Much Time on Small Problems

My friend, Margot and I were chatting this weekend.

Like most women, we covered relationships and parenting in a few minutes.  Then the conversation turned to work.

As I listened to Margot recount a political episode with her boss in Denver, something caught my ear.
"You know.  I'm tired of spending so much time on small problems."  
Listening to NPR tonight, I was moved by stories of single mothers in Redding, PA.  (Stay with me here.  This post will make sense.)  Apparently, the poverty rate in Redding is 40 percent!

I'm not usually one for statistics as a storytelling device.  (It's hard to wrap your head around numbers.)  But even I can tell that living in a community where 4 out of every 10 people are out of work or underemployed is NOT good!

The mothers that they profiled REALLY are struggling.  Poverty on that scale, which equals not being able to put food on the table, is a BIG problem.

The same thing CANNOT be said of most of our mundane, middle class, messes.

To be clear, I'm not channeling your mother. ("There are children starving in China!  Eat your peas and stop crying!")

However, I AM saying that while we ALL struggle it's important to remember that some people have it MUCH worse.

In other words, as another dear friend said recently,
"Yes, I can believe that you have 348 emails in your inbox.  But isn't it wonderful to be employed!"
She's right.

Suffer.  Go ahead.  Feel the weight and burden of your life.  (Really.)  It will make you more humble and compassionate.

At the same time, recognize that - in context - most problems are smaller than they feel.  And you can let go. 



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How Do You Define Success?

How do you define success?  Is it
  • Buying your dream home
  • Getting your dream job
  • Losing 10 pounds
  • Raising a happy, healthy child
  • Getting dinner on the table
  • Leading a team
  • Staying sober 
It matters how you walk your path and measure your days  The yardsticks we choose define us.

Our secular culture provides interesting benchmarks for success.  Have you watched an episode of Keeping up With the Kardashians lately?  Ugh!

All the great religions also provide road maps.
  • Treat others as you would have them treat you.
  • Be compassionate.
  • Put others first.
One of my favorite definitions of success comes from Richard Rohr.
"Show up.  Pay attention.  Do the best you can."
Great advice!

I also like.  "BREATHE."

How do you measure success?  How will you know when you've arrived?


Monday, July 9, 2012

Can You Capture Your Mission in a Poem?

My new friend and the Executive Director of Shepherd's Table, a feeding ministry here in Silver Spring, Maryland, sent this beautiful poem to me and I thought I'd share it with you.

Can you capture the spirit of your mission in poem?  What a wonderful way to tell your story.


Somewhere in your life
hope you might see
one starved person,
the look on her face
when the bread finally arrives.

Hope you might have
baked it
or bought it
or even needed it yourself.

For that look on her face,
for your hands meeting hers
across a piece of bread,

You might be willing
to lose a lot,
or suffer a lot,
or even die a little.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I'm Not in Control (and Neither are You!)

When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves. - Viktor E. Frankl
There are some things I can't control.  (Don't tell my husband that I admitted this to you!)
  • I can't control the derecho that we - and one million other people - experienced last week.
  • I can't control my daughter's nightmares.
  • I can't control that my husband's dear friend just died from lung cancer at the tender age of 54.
Life is not of our making.  While we may live with the ILLUSION of power and control, the reality is that we are pawns in this game of chess.

I just finished the first chapter of Wrecked, an upcoming book by Jeff Goins and was reminded of the importance of humility - acknowledging our limitations and putting others first.

The good news is that while you (and I) CANNOT control what happens in the world,  WE CAN control how we respond to the poison arrows.  

I am testing my compassion muscle.  I aspire to be the calm in the storm and shelter others.  It is not easy.  It is painful and unnatural to turn the other cheek.  And, I'm convinced, it is the only way to live.



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Are You Trying to Be Good or Are You Trying to Get Better?

My daughter stinks at miniature golf.  She can't hit the golf ball in a straight line to save her life.  And forget about all of those obstacles.  When we played last summer, she was 30 strokes OVER par.  And she didn't like it!

Here's the thing.  She's only 9!  Of course, she's bad at miniature golf.  She's bad at lots of stuff because she hasn't had any time to practice.
"Honey, you've only played miniature golf twice in your life,"  I remind her.  "Don't be so hard on yourself.  It take time to master a new skill."
When it comes to kids, it's easy for most of us to remember that practice makes perfect and that there are very few tasks that we can nail out-of-the-gate.   

Why is it so hard to apply the same logic to ourselves as adults?

I'm amazed at how hard we are on ourselves.  For some reason we expect to be good at everything we try - right away!  No matter that we've never taken a single class in fundraising, marketing, financial accounting, product management, sales, or social media.  For some reason, we expect all new skills to come quickly and easily.  It's a shame.

According to 9 Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson, 
"When many of us take on a new project or goal, we expect to be able to somehow do the work flawlessly, no matter how challenging it might be.  Our focus is on being good, and the (very real) prospect of failing to meet expectations becomes terrifying.  The irony is that the pressure to be-good results in many more mistakes, and far inferior performance, than would a focus on getting-better."
This focus on being good vs. getting better has another adverse result.  It makes us reluctant to TRY new activities and take risks.  In other words, if we have to do everything well, we won't innovate.  This lack of out-of-the-box thinking is bad for us personally and professionally.

Join me in taking Halvorson's advice to heart and applying it to your work and play.  Instead of focusing on being good, focus on improving your skills over time.

By applying this wisdom, you're likely to get better.  You're also more likely to enjoy the ride!



Thursday, June 28, 2012

What is the Moral of Your Story?

What is the moral of your story?
  • Anyone can make a difference.
  • Hard work pays off.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.
  • Good always triumph over evil.
  • Good gals finish first!
Jonah Sachs, of The Story of Stuff and The Meatrix fame, has a fantastic new book out called Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the FutureYou should buy it and read the whole book.

I liked it for a lot of reason but I was particularly moved by his reminder that
  • Every brand is telling a story.
  • Every story has a moral.
  • To inspire and cut through the media clutter, the moral of your story has to empower others and resonate with the deepest human of values.
Let me elaborate.

According to Sachs, every brand (including yours) is telling a story.

Whether you like it or not, based on how you interact with others, e.g. how you answer the phone, solicit, greet, and thank your donors, etc. you are creating a brand.  This brand is the total impression and EXPERIENCE that others have with you.  It is your narrative.

You can try to POSITION your brand i.e. be intentional about the story you live and tell or you can let it happen to you.  Either way.  Your brand exists.

As a nonprofit, I hope that your brand is positive and that the moral of your story is connected to changing the world.  Because if this is not so, you have a problem.

Not sure of your moral?  Ask yourself these questions.  

In the end of the day...
  • WHY does my organization exist?  
  • WHY do I come to work every day?
  • WHY do donors give to our organization?
  • WHY are our employees, customers, supporters, clients, volunteers, etc. loyal to us vs. others?
Answer these question and you will have the moral of your story.  (I hope you like your moral.  If not, you need to think carefully about your work.)  This moral should anchor all of your marketing and communications.

Here is an example. 

My company, Network for Good, has a compelling vision.  Our goal is to unleash more generosity in the world by helping people and organizations become better fundraisers.

We believe that regardless of their means, people are inherently generous and that if we can make giving easy and (dare I say) FUN we can actually increase generosity in the world.  To date, we have helped to generate over $650 milion in donations to over 80K nonprofits.  This is the moral of our story.

To be clear, this post is not a brag fest about Network for Good, it's a reminder that most nonprofits (including mine) have a noble calling.

The challenge is this.

It takes work to stay true to your calling and to remember the moral of your story when faced with the chaos and business of daily life.

What is the moral of your nonprofit's story?  
  • Why do you exist?
  • What good are you doing in the world?
  • Why should everyone else care?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Turn Your Website From Ick to Slick - Download 10 Things Your Nonprofit Home Page Must Have Now

Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Linkedin, and Airtime.  The list goes on and on.

There are myriad outlets for your connecting with your donors and building brand awareness but if you want to raise more money online, you have to get your home base in shape and that means (drum roll) fixing your website!

Fill out this form to access 10 Things Your Nonprofit Home Page Must Have and learn how to whip your website into shape now!  You'll also get to sample Fundraising Fundamentals Premium Training from my company - Network for Good. 

Happy Fundraising!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Will You Do With Your One Wild and Precious Life?

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
I just had the privilege of spending the weekend with my beloved in the mountains of Virginia.

We hiked the Appalachian trail.  We ate raisins and nuts and M&Ms and drank coffee.  We watched the sun set and listened to the sound of strange creatures (birds!) chirping. 

This is heady stuff for a city girl like me!

I was touched by how beautiful the wilderness can be and how easy it is to get out of touch with REALITY.

Marketing for Nonprofits started as a blog about marketing but lately it's a blog about life.  Because in the end of the day, we're all selling something and we all have important questions to answer about who we want to "shill" for and how we want to live in and leave the world.  And these are more interesting questions to me - now.

I don't mean to be morbid but life is really short. 

As Mary Oliver so eloquently says, "doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?"

If you're a young reader, you may not understand these words.  If you're over 40, you will resonate with her wisdom.

You (and I) only have one wild and precious life?

How will you spend your days?  Where will you work?  Who will you love?  What will you become?