Building a Charismatic Nonprofit

“What distinguishes a good nonprofit from a great nonprofit? At the end of the day, the great, charismatic nonprofits are not necessarily those that have charismatic leaders, but those that can create strong social capital,” said Deborah Jospin at a Center for American Progress event about the book she co-authored with Shirley Sagawa, The Charismatic Organization: Eight Ways to Grow a Nonprofit that Builds Buzz, Delights Donors, and Energizes Employees. Nina Easton, Washington Bureau Chief of Fortune Magazine, moderated the discussion with Sagawa and Jospin.

The danger of basing an organization around one person with charismatic leadership qualities is that the focus can quickly become the leader rather than the organization. A leader can always leave an organization. This is why Sagawa and Jospin argue that building a fundamentally strong, team based nonprofit will be a more effective method in the long run than relying on individual leadership.

“There are two kinds of social capital,” explained Sagawa. “One kind brings people together and unites them in a cause so that they want to be part of that community.” This is especially valuable because it means that, in hard economic times, an organization’s donors and supporters will still be there and feel a connection to that cause. The other type of social capital is “bridging social capital.” This means that an organization is able to reach beyond its immediate network, which allows it to expand their donor base or political influence. …read more and see the video at Building a Charismatic Nonprofit – Center for American Progress, published 21 April 2009.

Flickr photo credit: an untrained eye

By |2012-01-05T07:14:16+01:00April 27, 2009|Blog, Nonprofits|0 Comments

Solving a social problem, without going the nonprofit route

It used to be that people who wanted to solve a social problem — like lack of access to clean water or inadequate housing for the poor — created a charity. Today, many start a company instead.

D.light, a company cofounded by Sam Goldman, who spent four years in the Peace Corps in Benin before earning a master’s degree in business from Stanford University, is an example. Mr. Goldman started D.light with the mission of replacing millions of kerosene lamps now used in poor, rural parts of the world with solar-powered lamps.

Having used kerosene lamps himself while living in Benin, Mr. Goldman learned firsthand of kerosene’s problems — it is expensive, it provides poor light and it is extremely dangerous. When the son of his West African neighbor nearly died after suffering severe burns from spilled kerosene, Mr. Goldman said he realized he wanted to create a venture to solve both the social and economic problems caused by these lamps. His time in Benin also convinced him, he said, that only as a business could a project become large enough to reach the great number of people who use these lamps as their primary source of light.

“We could have done it as a nonprofit over a hundred years, but if we wanted to do it in five or 10 years, then we believed it needed to be fueled by profit,” he said. “That’s the way to grow.” …read more on this at Solving a Social Problem, Without Going the Nonprofit Route –, published 4 March 2009.

Flickr photo credit: jurvetson

By |2012-01-05T07:14:16+01:00March 9, 2009|Blog, Nonprofits|0 Comments

Fundraising in a recession – 7 tips for working smarter, not harder!

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Unfortunately, the world of nonprofit development can be notoriously fickle and unfocused.

Clearly we are in a major recession with no end in sight. The trick is not to panic. Here’s how you can meet your goals and, yes, even prosper in the upcoming year!

  1. Stay the course. Develop a balanced, thoughtful budget approach which includes realistic goals for grants and corporate support, individual support, program support and events. Plan as you normally would.
  2. Retain staff. This one is key. I have worked with nonprofit organizations who have had – seriously – five development directors in three years! How can an organization have any kind of continuity with donors with that kind of record? Staff your organization with quality individuals and do your level best to keep them.
  3. Invest in Education. If you’re not sending your development staff to workshops, classes and seminars, you’re doing your organization a grave disservice. Why are so many organizations reluctant to invest in education for their employees? Training enables and accelerates innovation. It’s good for the employee – it’s good for the employer.
  4. Research, research, research. Foundation giving may be declining. On the other hand, it may not. Remember, foundations are created with the sole purpose of supporting philanthropic causes – regardless of the state of the economy. To maintain their legal status Foundations MUST donate an amount equal to 5% of their assets averaged over 5 years. Foundations also often INCREASE their giving in challenging times to offset decreases in giving from other sources
  5. That said, you need to make it a practice to routinely scope out new sources of foundation funding. Develop a system where you’re sending out proposals or letters of inquiry to new foundations on a weekly basis.

  6. Start a Monthly Giving Program. This one’s a no-brainer and I am astounded that more organizations have not picked up on it.
  7. If you’ve got donors who are giving you $1,000, $100, even $25 every year, they’re prime candidates for a monthly giving program. Implement one now. Give donors the option of monthly credit card or checking account debits. And what rule says you can only mail once a year? Why not twice or even three times a yea

  8. Refine (or Define) Your Story. Benevon calls it the organization’s “emotional hook.” It’s your nonprofit’s “story” – what makes donors give to you. The most compelling stories bring on the tears. Talk to your board members, talk to your clients, talk to your staff, talk to foundation funders and individual funders to find your emotional hook. Bring it to life.
  9. Communicate. It doesn’t have to be on a weekly or monthly basis but it absolutely needs to be consistent. Donors would rather be kept notified on a timely basis in a simple manner than receive a glossy magazine publication (that makes them wonder what the heck you are doing with their money) once every two years. A two to four-page quarterly or triannual newsletter is ideal.

About the author: Pamela Grow is a consultant, assisting nonprofit organizations with proposal development, prospect research, annual appeal strategies and communication planning and is the author of “Five Days to Foundation Grants.” Check out her weekly blog, “Towards Effective Nonprofit Writing” and join her Facebook group, Tools for the One Person Development Office.

By |2012-01-05T07:14:17+01:00January 18, 2009|Blog, Nonprofits|0 Comments
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