Category: How tos

Decision making in uncertain times

Decision making amid uncertainty is not easy. Business leaders cannot afford to wait when events are moving as fast as they are right now. We believe these five principles of decision making can help leaders make smart decisions quickly to guide their organizations through this crisis. Embrace them and continue to learn as you go.

To Tackle Complex Issues, Nonprofit Boards Must Embrace Their Own Complexity Through Diversity – Part 1 in our series on board development and service

Part 1 in the Johnson Center’s series on effective board practice explores what it will take for the nonprofit sector to finally move the needle on building inclusive nonprofit board rooms.

The Founding Fathers Write a Grant Proposal

“Just look at this second sentence!” groaned Samuel Adams. “‘We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .’ This flies in the face of ‘evidence-based practice!’ We’ll never get funded!” Another delegate had a different complaint: “This mission statement is way too long!” he wailed. “Mr. Jefferson, no one will ever read this ‘Declaration of Independence’ of yours.” In the meantime, George Washington had… Read more »

There are indeed great nonprofit bosses (worked for some). There are indeed great nonprofit boards (I’m assured).

There are indeed great nonprofit bosses (worked for some). There are indeed great nonprofit boards (I’m assured). And then there are the dumb, revenue-suppressing approval processes that the fundraising industry deals with daily… Simon Scriver #FundraisingEverywhere asked me to speak. Simon wanted me to reminisce. I’m old. He’s not yet old. He thought I could speak with authority on something like, “If I could… Read more »

How to thank too much

Line in the sand: R U boring me? Patti D. shared this pungent email from a committed donor:  I wanted to tell you that it is not necessary, or even desirable, to keep sending me thank you letters every month for my little monthly donations. I don’t need to get them, and I think its a waste of time and money on your part… Read more »

78 Irrefutable Canons of Fundraising – in detail

Iam often asked how I chose fundraising as a career. Actually, I didn’t choose fundraising. Fundraising chose me.

Here’s the brief version. I was slated for medical school. I needed some money for tuition. I was in Pittsburgh when I took a job at the YMCA.

The Y put me in charge of fundraising and their campaign. What courage they exhibited. What confidence. What lunacy! I knew nothing about fundraising.

Successfully Navigating an Executive Director Transition

Children’s Fairyland is the nation’s first storybook theme park; definitely not your typical nonprofit. So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised when the park’s executive director said to me, her replacement, as she handed over the keys to the kingdom, “Thank God Coco didn’t die on my watch.” Coco was the park’s sweet old pony, beloved by many generations of kids. Her passing would… Read more »

EXCERPTED BELOW: The 14th chapter-in-progress, yanked squealing in protest (“please rewrite!”) from the 2nd edition of my how-to-write-effective-cases book

Color me clueless. As one does at such crossroads, I began to read. Stanley Weinstein, in his 2004 book, Capital Campaigns from the Ground Up, described the item thusly:

“A case for support, also called a case statement, is a body of language that describes the rationale for supporting a nonprofit organization. It is written from the donor’s perspective, primarily the desire to support worthwhile projects and organizations that help enhance the lives of others.”

The Best Way To Put Clients First Is To Let Them Lead!

Those of us who work at nonprofits are drawn to a particular mission and a desire to do good and give back. Most of us have navigated our careers thoughtfully and intentionally and have worked hard (perhaps even tirelessly). Yet often, despite our good intentions and hard work, we find ourselves replicating the practices that created the inequity we committed to disrupt in the… Read more »

Breaking the Nonprofit Financial Glass Ceiling

The fact is that a financial glass ceiling exists for nonprofits — a limit, which many nonprofits hit, where the money just won’t grow. They may have a great solution to a social problem, but they are unable to attract the money necessary to deliver on that solution. I see this all the time in my consulting practice. A nonprofit has existed at a certain budget level — let’s say $1.5 million — for years and years, and though they have big ideas for how much more they could be doing, they just can’t seem to get past that $1.5 million mark.

How to Tell Stories About Complex Issues

Storytelling is one of the greatest tools we have for engaging communities on complex social and environmental issues, in ways that can drive belief and behavior change. People are far more likely to remember information if it reaches them in the form of a story. Good stories also have an incredible ability to reduce counterarguing on divisive issues. And when people are transported by a great story, they remember the events in the story and feel like the experiences were their own. As a result, the story has the power to influence future beliefs on related issues.

Breaking the Ignorance Ceiling

Why this book screamed to be made In the US, as of 2017, there were something like 1.3 million government-sanctioned charitable organizations. It’s a growing sector: at current rates, about 47,000 new US charities are born each year.[1] Is that a lot or a little, for a nation of some 330 million? I say it’s a lot. After all, the same population gets by with… Read more »

“In a billion-dollar campaign case,” she wondered, “where do you stick the ‘letter from the Dean’?”

Ummmmmmm…. Good question, Echo. ¶ In our little world [The Case Writers], where we pretty much get to write and design whatever we think is best, working with a group of clients who want exactly that, every “normal” element is questionable. You start each day with this question, “What if everything I think I know is wrong?” ¶ In other words, if something normally… Read more »

Some Say Fundraising Is Just Sales: They’re Wrong!

Early in my 30-plus year career in the philanthropic arena, I was looking for a major gifts officer for a reproductive health clinic in Los Angeles. Of the many résumés I received, one was from a candidate with ten years of solid experience—but for eight of those ten years, he worked for religious charities that opposed the values held by my organization. Within the… Read more »

The Board vs. Staff Game Replacing Divide and Conquer with Let’s Make Millions Together

It started with a threat, from a board member in the midst of a board meeting.   “If she doesn’t produce in a year, she’s out of here.”   Thirty seconds. Sixty seconds.   Silence hung in the room like fog at dawn.   I was beginning my third job with a nonprofit. The first two positions were highly-sought-after spots with low-pay and high-perks. … Read more »

Why Does Your Board Micromanage? Learn from My Error and Create a Board that Governs

It was a beautiful August morning. Twenty campers and four counselors outfitted in orange lifejackets paddled silver canoes across a glassy blue lake in northern New Hampshire.    We pulled up to a sand spit. As we unloaded, I, one of the junior counselors, muttered, “I wish I had a brownie. We should have brought snacks.”   In response, all twenty campers moaned in… Read more »