Friday, November 30, 2007

A Bit of Old School Charm

It seems, now, more than ever, relationships win the day. Whether you're selling widgets, services or the greater good, connecting with people makes a world of difference. What are you doing for your customers, your employees or your donors to make you the organization of choice? Steve Yastrow sparked a discussion on this thread that demonstrates the value of the extra touch in making your stakeholders believe they "can't get it anywhere else."
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Messaging that Drives Behaviors

The power of messaging lies in its ability to shape attitudes, behaviors and actions. When shaping your organization's next messaging strategy, winnow all of the conversation to one main message -- the most important thing you need to communicate. Then, identify the most important word in that message. Write it down. Reflect on it. Then, create the deliverable. But, before you send it out the door, take a moment to go back to that one word -- do you see it in what you delivered?
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Lessons for All Sectors from High-Impact Nonprofits

There are lessons to be learned for all sectors from a recent study of high-impact nonprofits published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Success in achieving social change, according to the findings, stems not from perfect management, brand name awareness, breakthrough ideas, textbook mission statements, conventional metrics or large budgets. It stems from being clear about what you want to achieve. It comes together by creating evangelists who are going to help you get there. High-impact organizations focus on results and do whatever it takes to achieve them -- within reason.

How about your organization: Are you clear about the greater good you seek to achieve? Are you connecting people to it? Are you clinging to conventional ideals or moving beyond business as usual? Be honest. Be true. And, if you want to achieve it, create a framework for progress to make it happen.
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Simple as Strategy

Fast Company said it well: simplicity doesn't mean simple-minded. Developing strategy is like developing advertising in that you have to keep it simple. Value comes from distilling your messages into something that resonates -- creating a story that connects and sells. Pull out your organization's strategic direction. Look at the mission, the vision. Is it clear enough to help someone faced with a choice? Take a look at your values. Do they give a clear picture about what shapes the organization's decisions? Without clarity, your strategic direction doesn't do what it's supposed to do. Without a strategic direction, neither can you.
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Calling All Leaders!

As a leader in your organization, you have the opportunity to build your organization’s brand every day. You also have a particular responsibility to be mindful of your words, actions and attitudes because they shape the way people around you (inside and outside the organization) respond.

A quick and easy check-in: create a list of your organization's values or brand traits, put the list somewhere you can see it, schedule a moment of reflection midweek or (better yet) midday to check-in with how well you are reflecting those traits to the people around you. Hopefully, you'll just need that pat on the back to keep up the good work ... but, if you find that 6 times out of 10 you're falling short, you owe it to yourself (and your organization) to figure out why.
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Monday, November 12, 2007

Results for Rewards

A study recently completed for the Linchpin Campaign pointed to the value of not only results but also direct communication when talking with donors about progressive causes. As reported in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Project Director Majorie Fine said: "Some people were saying, 'We see what happens in the short term, we don't see the big picture. It means that communication is key to getting more donors that want to support this work."

Read a summary of the campaign.

For all of you involved in progressive nonprofit work, seek out opportunities at your next retreat or in your next Board meeting to push your thinking about the vision for your organization and clarify what you expect to see as you take steps toward its achievement. Bring in a facilitator to guide the discussion.

Consider this framework: Your organization was invited to participate in a charitable contest. An eccentric philanthropist identified three progressive organizations. Each organization has to pitch a pathway project. Winner take all. $15 million. The prize is awarded based on the thinking and on the presentation. Break out into small groups and brainstorm your organization's pitch.

Perhaps something more concrete might help your group ... Identify your major programs. Break out into small groups and link each program to your long-term plan or your organization's vision. Present. Have each person critique the clarity of the presentation as well as the program's connection to both the bigger picture and the delivery of results.

And, if your organization doesn't have that plan or that vision ... stop. Don't go another step without consulting with a professional who can help you build a framework for your future success. It not only helps employees, it helps donors see that you value the greater good and that you understand how your organization is part of a movement for positive social change.
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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Nonprofits Benefit by Aligning Assets with Mission

There are a few pluses to running a nonprofit a bit like a business. As the Triple Bottom Line gains momentum, nonprofits have an opportunity to demonstrate to Board members and the community how they, too, consider human capital, social capital and financial capital when making decisions.

When nonprofits live and breathe in a world of limited assets, fighting for scraps, it can be tough not to give over automatically to the desire for financial returns that maximize the minimum. Yet, nonprofits who step back and work from a platform of mission-based decision-making can make inroads and great strides that produce higher 'triple returns.'

Some small steps can make a big difference in starting down that road. Here are four to consider:

1. Be clear about your purpose. A clear mission makes for better decisions and keeps you from being too easily swayed by promises of deep pockets or other opportunities. A good facilitator can help you articulate that mission and a community loan fund can help with technical assistance that uses it to build your financial capacity.

2. Document your commitments. Write down the filters that are important to your organization. Formalize it into a vendor selection policy or an investment policy. Share it with employees, funders and other stakeholders to demonstrate your commitment and create an opportunity to talk with them about the issues important to your organization.

3. Audit your assets. Take stock of the human, programmatic and financial assets of your organization. Think about the vendors with whom you do business and look for ones that support your values. If you offer retirement plans for your employees, consider including a socially responsible investing option.

4. Share your story (and share it again). A once-a-year plug is not going to do it. Remind people on a recurring basis about the value of walking the socially responsible talk. Help people who live it on a daily basis remember how to leverage their assets in a mission-driven way.

Thanks to Salli Martyniak, Forward Community Investments, and Steve Zahn-Cantelmo, AG Edwards, for their conversations on this topic.

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