A New Resource for Nonprofit Leaders

Nonprofits are messy. You may have heard me say that before.

And if you’re a leader at a nonprofit, you know that it takes a village. It’s impossible to do it all on your own… even if you ARE kind of on your own. And so many nonprofit leaders I hear from do often feel alone, overwhelmed, and awfully frustrated in their jobs.

But I truly believe that if you stepped up and took a leadership position at a nonprofit, you’re a superhero. And like any superhero, you need your Lois Lane or Mary Jane Watson. Your Justice League or Avengers… A group of fellow superheroes and supporters in your corner.

And that’s why I’m SO excited today to announce that I’ve opened the doors of the Nonprofit Leadership Lab to new members!

I created the Lab to help nonprofit leaders like you – both on the board and the staff – with the ongoing education, support, and community you need to thrive.

And if you could see my email inbox, you’d see how badly the sector needs this.

Just a quick heads up that if you think you might join the Lab, this registration period will close at midnight on Wednesday, October 18. This is so I can focus on the members instead of on marketing the Lab (which is very time consuming). So think about it, but don’t wait too long and miss the deadline.

WHAT IS THE NONPROFIT LEADERSHIP LAB?

Rather than write a long blog post explaining what this is all about, I whipped up this fun animation. It’s just a few minutes long.

 

I hope to see you in the Lab!

I invite you to learn more and see if the Lab is right for you at https://nonprofitleadershiplab.com.

Small Nonprofits Are Anything But Small

small nonprofits

There is something wonderfully unique about small nonprofits. Sometimes they are one-person shops – not a lot of bureaucracy. There is often a camaraderie – together as a community you are fighting for clients, for their needs, for what is right and just.

Here’s what I have learned. The only thing small about a small nonprofit is its size.

But with that size also comes some unique challenges. Maybe you recognize some of these in yourself or your organization?

  • Your mission is bigger than your bank account
  • You believe you can’t ever take a vacation because if you missed even just a few days all the work would literally stop
  • You have an overwhelming feeling that everything rests on your shoulders but still think it’s easier to try to do everything yourself then ask somebody for help. Who would you even ask?
  • You feel frustrated about your inability to get the word out given your limited resources and time
  • Your board isn’t stepping up or is made up of the wrong mix of people. Or they mean well but they just don’t know what to do next.

Just this week, I got an email from an Executive Director of a small nonprofit – the board voted to close down the organization because of its inability and skepticism about raising money.

Board and staff leaders of small nonprofits throw their hearts and souls into the work, feel totally responsible, wildly overwhelmed, and far too often like the “man behind the curtain” – the imposter behind the Great and Powerful Oz.

And there’s another thing that makes it especially tough for a small nonprofit. Not a dime for outside help. No coaching, no consulting, no supportive community. Little opportunity to learn from others, to secure a mentor and feel more competent, in control and less alone.

It’s time to do something about this. Here’s what I have in mind…

Continue Reading

10 Nonprofit Blogs You Should Be Following

nonprofit blogs

Thank you for being a reader of my blog. I am so grateful that my posts resonate with you and so many other nonprofit leaders. Truly.

But this blog is hardly the only one you should read. There are a whole lot of really smart and terrific folks in the nonprofit sector that have an awful lot to share. And they write great nonprofit blogs.

So today I want to share with you 10 nonprofit blogs that are written by other people that you ought to be following.

But there really are a lot more than 10 great nonprofit blogs out there! Which ones should I mention? And so, I decided to get a little bit of help.

Last month, I launched The Nonprofit Leadership Lab, an online membership site for leaders of small to midsized nonprofits that want to take their nonprofits from “messy” to “thriving.” The Lab offers ongoing education, support, and community. We have nearly 1,000 members currently and registration will open again before too long so stay tuned. If you want to be notified when the Lab is opening again, you can jump onto the waiting list.

The Lab members teach me as much as we offer them. If I have a question, I post it in the Lab community and voila – an embarrassment of riches in terms of ideas and insights. The road absolutely runs both ways.

And so I decided to ask the Lab members to share their favorite go-to nonprofit blogs.

Here are the 10 they mentioned the most…Continue Reading

5 Ways to Expand Your Pool of Donors and Volunteers

expand donors

Do you ever feel like you’re always fishing in the same pond?

This week I gave a speech at the JDRF national conference in Chicago with this website.

I learned some powerful stuff. For example, 1.25 million people in the country are afflicted with Type 1 Diabetes, or “T1D,” and there are 40,000 new diagnoses annually, largely in children. It changes their lives and their families’ lives forever.

Something about the conference felt like a family reunion. It kinda was.

Now I’m not saying that everyone there had a family member living with T1D but a heck of a lot did.

Here were hundreds of men and women, fierce advocates for the eradication of T1D. Wonderful people.

But when you are too insular it’s a big problem. Nonprofits must think more broadly about who to engage in their work and the challenges being insular can create.

I spoke to the Chief Development Officer and the page is beginning to turn. There is a growing realization that if you want to raise the kinds of funds necessary for critical research and for lobbying elected officials to push for more government funding, you simply have to fish in more ponds.

A lot of folks feel stuck in this way. They know how to ask the usual folks to volunteer their time or give money. But not how their nonprofits can expand the pool.

Pool… ponds… sorry for mixing my metaphors. But they just both work so well.

Here are five ways you can expand your pool of donors, volunteers, staff members, and board members too.Continue Reading

Dear Joan: HELP! Our Entire Staff Quit!

“Dear Joan” is an ongoing series where Joan responds to readers who send emails asking for nonprofit advice, practical solutions, or just general therapy (Joan tries not to make direct comments on a reader’s psychological state — that’s called practicing without a license.) You can send your questions to Joan by clicking here.

staff quit

As part of my upcoming free workshop called How to Build a Thriving Nonprofit, I created a Facebook group where I’ll be running Q&As during the workshop. More than 3,000 people have already joined!

The quality of conversation in the group has been terrific. Members have already helped each other:

  • Find 501c3-friendly financial institutions and great VOIP phone systems
  • Improve each other’s elevator speeches
  • Find resources to help with strategic planning
  • Prepare for a new ED position
  • Overcome burnout
  • Create systems to stay on top of grant deadlines, and so much more

And that’s just some of what’s happened in the last 24 hours.

(If you’d like to participate in the free workshop and Facebook group, click here.)

So for “Dear Joan” this week, I want to answer some of the messier questions posed in the group.

Let’s get to it…Continue Reading

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 dig into all five pillars in great depth during my free workshop called “How to Build a Thriving Nonprofit” which started on October 4. 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 going on camping with a tent from Survival Cooking – 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