The 5 Pillars of a Thriving Nonprofit

thriving nonprofit

There’s a word I hear from nonprofit leaders more than any other.

Can you guess what it is?

It’s not inspired, lucky, or meaningful. I wish!

It’s also not frustrated or burned out. Thank goodness!

Here it is… the word I hear more than any other from nonprofit leaders….

Overwhelmed.

Ok, that’s probably not a big surprise. Leading a nonprofit can feel completely overwhelming. And the biggest reason is that it can be hard for nonprofit leaders to wrap their heads around all the things they need to attend to.

One of the more popular posts I wrote in the last year was called “The 14 Attributes of a Thriving Nonprofit”.

Sure it was popular, but what was I thinking? Fourteen attributes? Really?

Fourteen feels like an awful lot of things to worry about. I’m not sure I helped anybody feel any less overwhelmed.

But here’s the truth. If you look a little bit closer you’ll see that in reality there are only five things… five pillars… that a healthy and thriving nonprofit handles really well.

Just five.

Get these five things right and your nonprofit will soar.

I’m going to dig into all five pillars in great depth during my upcoming free workshop called “How to Build a Thriving Nonprofit” which starts on May 10. If you’d like to join me in the workshop you can register here. I hope you will.

So are you ready to lighten your load? Feel some weight come off your shoulders?

Let’s dive into the five pillars of a thriving nonprofit.Continue Reading

Small Nonprofits Move the World

small nonprofitThis blog is intended to help nonprofits of all sizes – big, small, and in between.

But working at a small nonprofit can be especially challenging.

I get a lot of emails from people at smaller nonprofits with questions about how to overcome their challenges. Just in the last week, I got emails from:

  • An Executive Director who can’t possibly take a vacation – ever – because if she missed a week all the work would literally stop
  • A sole staff member that could have oh-so-much more impact if only there was remotely adequate funding
  • A new ED who feels undermined by the founder and is thinking about quitting but feels conflicted because he cares so deeply about the mission
  • A senior member of a board that has been spending the nonprofit’s money on a PR contract with the board chair’s wife with sub-par results

There are more. A lot more.

Now, these challenges can happen at bigger nonprofits too. But in many ways, smaller nonprofits have it tougher.

Why? Because larger, well-funded nonprofits have the capacity to get outside help. They can hire consultants, fundraising experts, have their board get expensive ongoing training, spend for professional development opportunities.

Small nonprofits? Not a chance.

It’s a huge problem. And I’m committed to doing something about it.

I urge you to read all the way through so you can see what I have in mind.

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7 Questions Every Nonprofit Should Be Asking Now

nonprofit questions

When Donald Trump became POTUS, the world changed. It’s no longer business as usual.

Nonprofits across the country have spent much of early 2017 trying to understand what this change means for them. Will proposed spending cuts impact the mission? Will non-governmental funders step up? Will there be more people in need?

Regardless of your political bent, whenever there is a big change it can feel scary. Even paralyzing.

Strong and smart leadership is needed at nonprofits now more than ever.

Towards that end, there are seven questions that every single nonprofit leader – staff and board – should be asking itself right now.

Here they are…Continue Reading

3 Ways to Overcome Fundraising Anxiety

asking for donationsTime for a little exercise. Don’t worry – this one’s easy.

You’re sitting across from someone at lunch. The person has an interest in your cause and you’re about to ask that person to make a $500 donation.

Write down one word to describe exactly how you feel.

I bet I can guess what you wrote…Continue Reading

Five Steps to a Winning Annual Report

annual report

Take a moment and think about your last annual report. What words come to mind?

Boring?

Snooze-fest?

Good for the litter box?

Time suck?

Unread?

You get the idea.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A good annual report can make a huge difference for an organization.

One time I worked on an annual report for an international relief organization doing work in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report was GREAT. So great, we used it to help us close some very large (7-figure!) gifts. There’s no way we would have received those donations without the annual report.

What made the report so compelling? The biggest thing was the way we told stories, both verbally and through images. These stories made it crystal clear to the reader that we were truly helping some of the world’s most impoverished people. It was extremely powerful.

So even though the process of producing the annual report was intensive, the benefits were enormous to the organization.

Now, most of the time annual reports ARE boring. Far too often the annual report gets short shrift. It’s considered a burden. Why? In part it’s because production starts soon after fiscal year-end and everyone is exhausted.

So in 2017 one of resolutions for you is this: your nonprofit will have a kick-ass, widely read annual report that you and your staff will enjoy creating and that will make a real different for the organization!

Sound like one of those resolutions people break in February?

Trust me; this is one you’ll keep, and love doing it.

Here’s why…Continue Reading

My Book is Finally Done! Now What?

I can’t believe it! It’s finished! I just sent the final edits off to my publisher and it’s finally done!!!

I’m popping the champagne – and I want to share with you some lessons I learned that are useful for any nonprofit leader with too much to do.

(And I also want to ask your advice about putting together a special launch team to work with me on getting the word out – watch the video to learn more!)

So what do you think… do you want to be on my book launch team? If you have thoughts about it, or want to apply, please go to this page and let me know!

And also, you can download a free chapter of the book right now and also sign up for free bonuses if you pre-order. All the information is available at www.NonprofitsAreMessy.com.

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A 60-Day Donor Retention Plan

donor retention

Congratulations! You survived the end of the calendar year fundraising rush.

That’s no small feat, so please give yourself a pat on the back immediately.

I hope you (and your organization) recognize your dedication and hard work. But if no one else has told you this, allow me to say it: great job!

You’ve brought new dollars through the door and that’s huge. But I actually think you accomplished something even more important.

You brought in new donors.

Even a new donor that only makes a gift of $10 (or even less) is worth her weight in gold.

Why?

Because it’s much easier to get a previous donor to give again than it is to secure a new donor.

But that’s true only if you have a good donor retention strategy.

But what if you are an organization with limited staff? What if you don’t have a well-developed major gift or individual giving program?

Not to fear, even the smallest organization can be top-notch at donor retention.

With that in mind here is my four-step 60-day plan to keep your new donors happy and set them up to be repeat givers.Continue Reading

Your 10 Favorite Posts of 2016

favorite posts 2016

Ah 2016.

Well, certainly nobody can accuse you of being boring.

As I do in December each year, I sat down and reviewed my blog statistics to see which posts resonated with you the most.

I am blown away at the piece that landed in #1 spot – I found your receptivity to this post quite inspiring.

As for the other nine, you’ll see a diversity of topics represented and worth reading (or re-reading) as you take at least a short break between the end of one year and the start of another (she says hopefully.)

I’d like to make one last suggestion before I head out to enjoy the holidays with my family.

If you are a board chair, would you take a few minutes to write an email to the entire staff on behalf of the board? Wish them a happy holiday, tell them how much respect you have for them and how proud you are to lead the board of your remarkable organization. Maybe point out one accomplishment that really stood out for you. And say thank you.

If you are a staff leader, I’d love to see you take a few minutes with your senior team (if you have staff and maybe lead volunteers if you don’t) and kick around what each of you saw as the most significant accomplishments of the past twelve months. One of you should jot them all down. I guarantee each of you will have something different to say and will inspire each other.

And then take a few more minutes and write a note to your staff. Thank them for their passion, their energy and their determination. Ask them to thank their families on your behalf for putting up with moms, dads, kids, partners who live and breathe their work much of the time. And then offer them your list of accomplishments. Suggest they read them again on New Year’s Eve and that you intend to do the same.

It will remind you all of what often gets lost. That your work is a joy and a privilege.

Wishing you all a warm and wonderful holiday and a 2017 that exceeds every expectation.

And now, here are your favorite posts from 2016.

Drumroll please…

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The Problem With Special Events

Nonprofits LOVE special events. And why not? They’re exciting and bring in revenue. But there’s a huge problem with them. In this video, I tell you what that is and suggest a better approach.

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6 Year-End Fundraising Tips

year-end-fundraising

Hello fellow fundraisers! I have an important message for you.

We’re now entering our most important time of the year. A time when all our financial dreams come true. Right? Right?

I’m sure all of this is true at your nonprofit:

  • Your hard copy solicitations are printed and stuffed, each with a gracious handwritten note from your Executive Director.
  • All of your fundraising emails are perfectly formatted and waiting patiently in the cloud for you to press send. Each email will land at the top of your donor’s inboxes who just happen to already have their credit cards out.
  • Your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts are pre-loaded and have videos and hashtags that will surely go viral within 20 minutes of them going online.

To paraphrase Oprah, each of us dream that every November and December we will be living our best fundraising life.

However, let’s be honest. year-end fundraising never looks that perfect.

It reminds me of something that happened to one of our clients last year. Every year, this client sends out lovely holiday cards with personal notes written by their Executive Director. Donors and VIPs love them. It’s a great way to send a personal thank you and it makes a demonstrable difference in donations.

But last year, the cards were ordered on thick glossy paper. They looked beautiful. But there was a problem.

The cards were too glossy to write on! So much for personal notes.

Now, this client had planned a lot of their year-end fundraising strategy early enough to rebound. But what if you’re still trying to decide what to do?

Maybe you only started at your job recently.

Perhaps a staff member quit and now you are picking up the slack.

Or it could be that you are the only fundraiser and it has been impossible to get ready for year-end while also handling all of your normal fundraising responsibilities.

Trust me, I get it. It happens.

As fundraisers, we are nothing if not flexible. We always rise to the challenge.

For you, I have a last minute plan to help you get it done.Continue Reading