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Unlocking Growth for Organizations and Idealists Like You

Speak Up, Idealists: Lessons Learned From Being An Introvert

We all have behavioral preferences. For instance, some of us take pleasure in putting things in order, while others thrive in chaos. Some prefer to have a wide range of acquaintances, while others seek intimate connections with a close group of friends. Some of us make decisions based on facts, while others use intuition to drive their thought process. The point is we all have preferred ways of operating, and these preferences impact how we interact and work alongside others. 

Topics: Leadership

Hearts On Sleeves, Shovels In Hands

I recently had the opportunity to address a wonderful group of marketers, fundraisers, and nonprofit professionals at the excellent Social Media 4 Nonprofits Conference (SM4NP) in New York City. I was asked to speak, generally, about philanthropy in a networked world. What a topic! I could speak for eight hours on that subject and still have a day of content left to share, so having to fit everything I wanted to say about the trends impacting the nonprofit sector into a 30-minute presentation was daunting — and exciting. 

I tried to weave in two basic ideas. The first is that we now live in a peer-to-peer world. The world is networked — we’ve digitized the social fabric of society, and we’ve done it in less than ten years. We are now networked together digitally, and more than that we can easily access and expand those networks. Most of us carry around devices that can reach someone 10,000 miles away in a tenth of a second.

Topics: Inspiration

Creating Impact With Limited Resources

In the past month, I’ve transitioned from urban planning in the public sector to the peer-to-peer fundraising world at Plenty. Before this shift I worked on countless planning projects that involved the studying of urban vacant lots and the techniques that can be used to stabilize these hazardous parcels through greening and landscaping treatments. And while the connection between vacant lots and nonprofit fundraising may not seem intuitive at first, after reflecting on some of the best practices and lessons learned that came from my work, the parallels between both types of organizations became increasingly obvious.

Vacant lots can pose a variety of challenges to communities ranging from crime in abandoned buildings to the negative impact that continued disinvestment can yield on property values and neighborhood stability. And while a few vacant lots won’t destroy a neighborhood, numerous Rust Belt cities face thousands of vacant lots that wreak havoc on urban systems and the fabric of communities. Therefore, managing a challenge of this magnitude requires the coordination of various stakeholders and the strategic allocation of limited resources — an endeavor that most nonprofits are all too familiar with.

Topics: Leadership Strategy

Are You Focused On The Right Goals?

As I was scrolling through my Instagram feed this morning, a post from a friend stood out. 

It reminded me of so many conversations I’ve had with clients, colleagues, and friends over the last year. It seems that everyone is at an all-time high level of “too much to do and not enough time.” Between personal and professional priorities, there are just so many things demanding our valuable attention, and the valuable attention of our teams. And because it is common for organizations to struggle with this, we often are able to determine, very early on in a client engagement, if the team is unclear on priorities and where they should be spending their time, energy, and brainpower for maximum impact. 

Topics: Strategy

Kick-start Your Website's User Experience

There was recently a gathering of intellectually curious nonprofit professionals from all over the world here in Chicago. The group was made up of people who are not only curious, but also especially interested in using data to better serve social good causes. For some, this gathering is known as the Do Good Data conference, powered by Data Analysts for Social Good. For me, it is known as a little piece of heaven. 

Topics: Leadership Strategy

The Team Member Your Nonprofit Needs

Do you consider yourself a “yes man”?

I certainly don’t. In fact, I pride myself on being a critical thinker. In most cases I try not to tell people what they want to hear, but instead what they need to hear - to make them better. I've found that this succinct and direct feedback is helpful when delivered tactfully, and am fortunate that this trait supports me in my role as a consultant.

I'm willing to guess that regardless of whether you're a consultant or not, you don’t consider yourself one either, right? I'll admit this was an easy guess considering many of us prefer not to place ourselves into buckets that have such negative connotations. Yes men are typically portrayed as sycophants, which in some cases, is true. However, I recently had a somewhat surprising experience when a client redefined the term for me. Let me take you back to that conversation. 

Topics: Funding

Achieving Progress Through Disruption

I just spent a short, delightful vacation with my family in Orlando. Using Disney as an example of fantastic customer service is hopelessly overdone. Similarly, using Disney as an example of unparalleled creative vision is just as hackneyed. And yet, the reason Disney is such a tired example of both is that they consistently excel in both areas. And so, I hope you’ll forgive my possible lack of inventiveness as I relate a story from several weeks ago.

Topics: Leadership Strategy

Five Ways To Ignite Your Inspiration And Creativity

My blog post was late.

However, it wasn’t from lack of planning. I started early and had lots of ideas. I wrote a first draft, but it didn’t capture what I wanted to say. So I wrote a second draft; it still wasn’t there. Suddenly, my deadline was looming. How did this happen? I started early, but my preparation was lying on the cutting room floor with my early drafts. So I buckled down; I focused. I thought about it while I was doing other things, which meant I wasn’t doing those well, either. When I tried to write again, I realized I was forcing it. I was no longer writing to share my ideas; I was writing to meet my deadline and check it off my list. I wasn’t inspired.

Topics: Inspiration Leadership

Master Fundraising Segmentation: Part 1

The Setup
A friend of mine reached out over the weekend with a common question asked amongst fundraisers and marketers looking to improve their results – which, let’s be honest, is every fundraiser and marketer on earth. 

Hey Jeff! I had two quick questions for you. Do you have any strategies for segmenting contacts based on data you haven't yet collected from the user? Or how to go about getting users to volunteer that information?

Topics: Funding Strategy

The Nonprofit's Dilemma: Abundance or Scarcity

You have a choice. That’s right, you do.

You can inspire people who care about your cause to give to you because you’re moving the needle of change forward, or you can scare them into action using statistics designed to create urgency.

You can share personal stories of people in need – the people you serve – that are dignified and show an appreciation for the systemic failures that led to their current situation, or you can show "poverty porn".

You can set meaningful fundraising goals that translate directly into tangible impact, or you can arbitrarily create unfounded and franticcampaign asks every month until constituents, who once opened most of your emails, have since asked Gmail to mark them as spam.

Topics: Inspiration Leadership Strategy

The Biggest Fundraising Trap To Avoid

"You're doing it wrong."

Ah yes, we all know the feeling. The acute sting of embarrassment we experience as someone publicly calls out our mistake. Sometimes we are on the giving end of this statement, and other (less fortunate) times we are on the receiving end. In either case acknowledging these mistakes is a natural part of progress. And while I fully support candid feedback I can’t help but cringe at being made an example of.

While most of my memories of being the “error guinea pig” take me back to my grammar school days, I have to admit that it has been happening pretty recently too. Not at work, not at home, but in my martial arts (Aikido) class. Every Sunday I diligently go to the dojo, and every Sunday the instructor claps his hands to signal the class should stop and listen. It is at this exact moment I know what’s coming.

Topics: Funding Strategy