1. The New Thinking in Nonprofit Revenue

    Most small to mid-sized non-profits have important, high-potential programs and wonderful people, but the vast majority are in moderate to severe financial distress. At best, they suffer from flat or lethargic growth. The reason for this is clear: the tools and strategies they use haven’t changed in decades. They long ago lost their effectiveness. read more »

  2. Your Auction, Gala, etc. is Bad Practice. Here’s Why.

    Auctions. Galas. Raffles. Car washes. Bake sales. Walk-a-thons.  They all need to die. If you are doing them, you are hurting your 501(C)3. Period.  But wait! Charitable fundraising events are so ubiquitous, how can they be a bad thing? Here’s how: they waste time and money. They cost the org enormous amounts of opportunity. read more »

  3. 10 Ways to Spot the Best Nonprofits

    There’s lots of talk out there about how to tell a non-profit performer from a pretender. And for good reason. The lack of transparency and accountability in this $1.5 trillion dollar sector– 10% of our economy– has reached crisis proportions. Witness the piece in the Tampa Bay Times, America’s Worst Charities, that shows how orgs with trust-inspiring names like “The Cancer Fund of America” are really scams that bilk people out of millions. And now, Pro Publica has exposed the brazen lies of the Red Cross.  When even venerable charities like the Red Cross are scamming their donors, whom can you trust? read more »

  4. Strategic Plans Cripple Nonprofits. Here’s the Cure.

    Most every nonprofit thinks they are all set and ready to go when their strategic plan is done. This is a tragic mistake. Because in nearly every one of the many hundreds–thousands?– of nonprofit strategic plans we have read, fuzzy thinking dominates.  Here’s the good news: there’s something much better. It’s a familiar tool used by tens of thousands of organizational leaders, every day of year, all around the world. And it holds the key to your organization’s transformation from a small, struggling nonprofit into a thriving, high performance enterprise that has a real shot at saving the world. read more »

  5. Nonprofit Culture: Friend or Foe?

     I had lunch the other day with a brilliant woman who recently left her job as a finance VP at a major corporation to join a medium-sized non-profit as the new CFO. She was tired of the corporate grind and wanted more meaningful work, but things were quickly going south.

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  6. Test: Answer These 3 Questions in 200 Words or Fewer

     After years of helping non-profits, we’ve boiled everything down to the essentials, inventing our own tools along the way.  Our approach to the old “mission, vision, and values” exercise is a good example.
  7. What Boards Should Do

     We are often asked to help with “Board Development” and we always politely decline. Generally speaking, spending time on “Board Development” treats the symptom not the disease.  Here’s our take:

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  8. A Gem on Leadership

    There is way way too much low-value noise in the business leadership and practice space, but occasionally there are a few gems that bring us back to basics. Check out this excellent list of the traits of effective managers: read more »

  9. A Classic Heartwarming Story, Retold

    The parable below is supposed to celebrate the perseverance and nobility of the nonprofit sector. But, in truth, it shows how nonprofits can sometimes unfortunately think with the heart instead of the brain.
  10. Let’s Combine What’s Great About For Profits and Nonprofits.

    Too often, the business and non-profit communities point out each other’s flaws. What they should be doing is learning from each other.  Business people complain that nonprofits are ineffective and need to run more like, well, businesses. Nonprofits respond by saying that the complexities of nonprofits are unique and hard to appreciate. They are also quick to retort that it is big business that devours the ecosystem and keeps employees in poverty. read more »

  11. What Events are For

    No, events are not for raising money. Nonprofits that rely on events primarily for income are suffering from severe opportunity cost and strategic misalignment. Especially nonprofits that run auctions– the most expensive and mission incompatible species of public gatherings. read more »

  12. Take This Quiz: Are You a Nonprofit or a Social Enterprise?

    How well do the following statements describe your 501(C)3 organization? Give yourself 1 point if the description matches little or not at all; 2 points if there is a partial match; and 3 if there is a good to strong match. read more »

  13. A Solution to a HUGE problem

    A major reason most small to mid-sized nonprofits fail to capture their full growth potential is because they follow the pattern of hiring a Development Director and assigning that position the central responsibilities for generating revenue.
  14. Breaking News: Capital Campaigns Are Dead

    The nonprofit sector held a press conference yesterday and officially announced that the idea of running a long, expensive, exhausting and ineffective Capital Campaign has officially died– at least in the eyes of the highest performing, highest-growth nonprofit organizations. read more »

  15. Before You Write that Holiday Gift Appeal…

    Are you a charity gearing up for your holiday gift appeal?  Don’t do it.  You and every other non-profit—if you live in a city, there are thousands within a few miles of you—are all churning out the same emotional letters.  Stop. Think about the people receiving your letter.  read more »

  16. Our Secrets for Growing Nonprofits 25% a Year

    Have you ever heard of a process that is proven to help nonprofits overcome chronic management, performance and financial barriers, one that allows them to capture their full potential and grow 25% annually? One that works consistently across organizational type, field, size and location? read more »

  17. Theory of Change? I’ll take *proof*, thank you.

    Here we go. It’s time to load the critique cannon, aim it, and fire at yet another fluffy management concept that presents itself as a practical tool. It goes under the label “Theory of Change,” and it even has its own non-profit and website.
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  18. Work with nonprofits? Read these books.

    If we had a magic wand, we would bring together all the following people who work with nonprofits: board members, staff, volunteers, and financial supporters and stakeholders of all stripes (individuals, corporate officers, foundation staff, agency officials, and customers). We would have everyone commit the following six books to memory and then discuss the key issues they point to.
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  19. Donor Analytics Done Right

    Time to tell the hard truth: fewer than 1% of nonprofit development offices measure the right things. And their orgs are suffering serious opportunity costs as a result.
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  20. The Seven Types of Nonprofits

    After working with hundreds of nonprofits over a couple of decades, helpful patterns emerge. My firm creates partnerships with nonprofits to help them grow, so we need to quickly discern the performers from the pretenders, or otherwise we would waste our time and get bad results. So we’ve developed the framework below to keep the confusion and attrition low and our results great.
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  21. Is Your Nonprofit World Class?

    Does your nonprofit have what it takes to change the world for the better? Find out with this short, 15-question survey.
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  22. Business Plan Breakthrough

    A board member for one of our clients recently told a story about trying to engage the owner of the company where she works. She wanted to get him interested in the work the nonprofit was doing. For 9 years, she persistently mentioned it at every opportunity. Without fail, he would always brush her off and suggest she talk to Marketing about available budget to support her cause. Without the owner’s support, that led nowhere. read more »