Here are three of the best articles, ideas, and links I’ve come across lately (with a bonus resource) to help you and your organization do more, better. Enjoy!
Adam Grant—best-selling author, Wharton professor, and host of a new TED-produced podcast called “WorkLife.”— shares some of his findings on what makes people and organizations more productive. Three things that stood out to me from that interview:
- Experiment. As Grant says, “…the people who are willing to try new things beat the ones who don’t.” Try different meeting styles. Use new productivity tools. Change it up. Similarly to your fundraising, it’s not always the direct benefit of a test or experiment, but rather the culture around testing and experimenting that is most important.
- Learn from Others. Too often we look to our colleagues, peers, or direct competitors for ideas and insights. But what about from people who do drastically different things. Why not try to learn from them? Association — the ability to learn from across industries – was identified as one of the 5 main traits of innovative CEO’s by Harvard Business School so instead of attending more fundraising conferences maybe check out a real estate convention, tech conference, or meetup for salespeople (and of course NIO Summit…).
- 3 for You. 3 for Others. I’m going to try this one but Grant suggests, at the start of the week, you write down 3 things you want to accomplish that week (professionally) and then 3 people or ways you are going to help others. I’ve been doing something kind of like this called 8 For the Day (DFD) where you choose 6 professional things and 2 personal things you’ll do each day. The high number and daily frequency can be challenging and you can find yourself chalking off some tasks that aren’t overly important, so Grant’s focus of just 3 for the week allows you to focus on the big important things. The 3 ways to help is great to well help others but also take your mind off work and deliver value to others.
This is a great post discussing the skills, people, and ideas needed, but often in short supply, in the nonprofit space if we truly want to look at growing the sector, improve our collective impact, and become more effective in our work. And it’s not more major gift fundraisers or startup nonprofits.
It’s hard to grow an email list, build a following, and grow a donor base — not impossible but it’s not easy. So what if you could just acquire 10,000 emails, 20,000 followers, and 5,000 donors in one swoop? That’s what, in theory, a merger or acquisition in the nonprofit space could do. Again, not that it’s easy but are organizations even thinking about growing their donor bases this way? What about expanding or improving their programs and services?
I have a friend who is in the midst of a merger discussion with the charity he runs and while everything on paper can make sense, there are a lack of financial levers and incentives and an abundance of emotional and personal attachments that make this difficult but it’s worth thinking about more seriously today and into the future.
Lean Startup’s Eric Ries on How to Make ‘Gatekeepers’ a Source of Power and Speed – First Round Review
Eric Ries is the man behind The Lean Startup — a great and pretty easy read — that, while about startups and mostly tech companies, has a lot of insights and ideas for nonprofits who are often operating in startup-like environments.
In this post, Ries talks more specifically about the ‘gatekeepers’ — finance, legal, HR and IT. Ries describes them as
“…the functional teams whose beneficiary is predominately the company itself, versus the end customer.”
They are also, in my experience, where a lot of great ideas go to die.
This is partly because the role of these ‘gatekeepers’ is to, well, keep the gate and make sure the other units — marketing, programs, fundraising, donor services, communications — don’t go off the rails. So those units and teams most responsible for growth often have to run things by these departments but those people often aren’t included early on and in useful ways. They get brought in at the end, without a lot of context, and little buy-in but yet have to approve or kill an idea. That’s not a great situation (for you or them).
Ries shares more insights on why ‘gatekeepers’ are the way they are, the valuable role they play in helping grow (or stunt the growth of) organizations, and what you can do to move faster and work better with these folks.
Bonus Resource: How Giving Bounced Back in 2017 – Raise + Engage Podcast
In this episode of Blackbaud’s Raise + Engage podcast, regular host Steve MacLaughlin plays guest and is interviewed by Blackbaud Philanthropy Institute Director Ashely Thompson to discuss their 2017 Charitable Giving Report and key findings.
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