Category: How tos

Strong Grant Proposals Start Here

We aren’t going to pretend grant writing is easy. It takes time, effort, and a lot of attention to detail. Each proposal, written and submitted, should be as strong as possible to ensure the best chance of approval from a grantmaker. We want to help you strengthen your chances of receiving funding, so we put together this list detailing the five most important elements of a strong proposal.

Shaping university boards for 21st century higher education in the US

Many university boards have not revised their governance models in decades and struggle to deliver on their mission. To update their current operating model, boards can focus on three best practices. “School governance is not a traditional hierarchy but looks more like a mountain range: different peaks represent students, alumni, faculty, president, the board, etc. Each institution has its own unique mountain range and… Read more »

How to Give Feedback to Your Funders—Especially When It’s Hard

Nonprofits can empower themselves to speak out. In 2014, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) launched an innovative initiative called Philamplify, which evolved into Power Moves. It promoted open, honest feedback to challenge the culture of deference in philanthropy. Back then, we saw how lack of truth-telling in philanthropy, compounded by nonprofits’ fear of reprisals, stood in the way of authentic, impactful relationships needed to implement systemic strategies that… Read more »

Now is not the time to slow down. Growth initiatives are critical for value creation, even survival, throughout an economic cycle.

Delivering the growth your strategy calls for is a complex and challenging endeavor for most organizations, particularly during a downturn. To ensure the results meet the aspirations, companies can lean on the experiences of others to guide their targets and approaches to execution. While the temptation to wait for the current crisis to pass may be strong, it entails the risk of falling behind competitors who adopt a through-cycle approach to growth and emerge far ahead in the recovery.

I asked Beth: Beth Beall is the unflagging ED [NOT easy] @ Vida Joven, an orphanage located in Tijuana, Mexico (murder capital of the world per capita, 2019

Vida Joven in a nutshell? Misery-central @ intake: abandoned kids living unprotected on the streets. Yet most Vida Joven orphans eventually go to college (yay!) … overcoming multiple traumas en route. If I had to pick just one charity to give to (of the 3 dozen we DO give to) … it would be Vida Joven. Huge impact on those served? CHECK!An unimaginably tough… Read more »

In the Appeal, Death is Never Easy To Talk About

How to start an appeal re: [gulp] dying?Follow me on Twitter: @thattomahern View this email in your browser   Notably re-quotable“…as we age we rely more heavily on intuition, values and emotion and less on rational thinking. Fewer bullet points. More stories. More evocative photos.” ~ Mark Rovner, Sea Change Strategies, Oct. 2019; citing Jeff Brooks   Dying Talking about “it” Karen G. (AU)… Read more »

What does a typical donor look like ~ in the US, Canada, the Irish Republic, the UK, NZ and AU?

If you had a different picture in your head… … for the sake of your bottom line, please adjust your assumptions. In February 2020, Sean Triner, Moceanic co-founder; co-founder of AU super-fundraising-agency, Pareto; and one of the planet’s TOP fundraising experts, had this to say: Let me tell you a secret: If by “young” you mean people in their 20s — you are heading… Read more »

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 »

Leaders: It’s OK to not know everything

Recently, a CEO confided that the accelerated disruptions occurring in her industry, with the advent of new technologies, new entrants and new business models, were shaking her usual confidence. While an expert in her field, she was doubting her adaptability to the increasingly complex nature of the challenges leaders face today, from work to home life. She is far from alone. More and more,… Read more »