Archive for May, 2012

The heart and soul of remarkable fundraising

Yesterday I had the opportunity to join a Corona Insights webcast interview with consultant Kimberley Sherwood of Third Sector Group, Inc. Sherwood discussed the importance of heartfelt engagement in your fundraising efforts. One of the realities of this approach is the nonprofit executive director/CEO is the keeper of the mission’s heart and soul, says Sherwood. In other words, if you’re the organization’s leader, it’s your job to embody the spirit of the mission so your staff can build on your inspiration with the donors they’re cultivating.

It’s no coincidence that Sherwood claims engaging the heart and soul is the cornerstone of remarkable fundraising. Leadership guru and prolific business book author, John Kotter, talks about the essential connection between organizational change and putting the heart back into the workplace. In one of his latest books, A Sense of Urgency, I asked John why we have to be reminded to infuse emotion in our leadership strategies, be they strategies for fundraising or other efforts. Here’s what Kotter said:

Spreadsheets and statistics drive our business decisions. Technology allows us to measure countless metrics and produce reams of data. And as I explain in A Sense of Urgency, we have been taught throughout our careers to tell people the facts as logically and rationally as possible. So it’s no surprise that leaders rely on these same approaches—and they certainly have their place. But as I wrote recently: Winning hearts and minds away from complacency is not possible with economic data alone. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., didn’t pull hundreds of thousands if not millions of white people into his cause by saying, ‘I have a strategic plan. Let’s look first at the data in exhibit A.’

Successful change requires urgency and enthusiasm from leaders on down. And that sort of excitement can only be unleashed with a compelling appeal to people’s hearts. This brings us back to Sherwood’s point about leading your organization’s successful fundraising by modeling heartfelt engagement with the cause.

I’ll leave you with this passage from Kotter’s Urgency book we featured with a Page to Practice™ summary at CausePlanet: “For centuries we have had the expression in English, ‘Great leaders win over the hearts and minds of others.’ The expression is not, ‘Great leaders win over the minds of others.’ More interesting yet, the expression is not that great leaders win the minds and hearts of others. Heart comes first.” (p. 45)

See also:

A Sense of Urgency by John Kotter

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Forces for Good: A second look at how the high-impact nonprofits fared

The world has changed significantly since the first edition of Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits was published in late 2007. The U.S. and global economies have significantly slowed down, while government cutbacks, reduced public philanthropy and less corporate funding have all challenged nonprofits like never before.

This stark new context prompted us to revisit our initial research last year and see if our findings still held up in a dramatically different environment. In the original book, we studied 12 high-impact nonprofits, from Habitat for Humanity to Heritage Foundation to Feeding America, and distilled six practices these organizations use to change the world. This time, we wanted to know how the original high-impact nonprofits fared during the Great Recession and what else we might we learn from them about thriving in difficult times.

Additionally, we also wanted to know how local and smaller nonprofits, which represent the vast majority of our sector, apply the same six practices to deepen their local impact. So we also conducted entirely new research last year on 13 local and smaller nonprofits operating on budgets ranging from $600,000 to $5 million. Despite recent changes in the economic landscape, our updated research reaffirms the viability of the original six practices for scaling social impact for organizations both large and small.

Here are a few lessons we learned from the original 12 high-impact nonprofits about thriving in turbulent times.

Accelerate into a downturn

Counter-intuitively, instead of causing setbacks, the recession became a force that propelled high-performing groups forward. Rather than putting their foot on the fundraising brake, many accelerated their development efforts, often by focusing their strategy on their highest-impact activities. Along the way, the majority of the original 12 nonprofits significantly increased their revenue. Teach For America quintupled in size, growing from $41 million in 2005 to $277 million in 2010. Four of the 12 groups doubled their budgets, and almost all the others grew at healthy clips. Rather than shying from growth, they leaned into their strategies and came out stronger.

Stay close to your donors

The moment the recession hit, Ed Feulner, CEO of The Heritage Foundation, instructed his development team to call every single major benefactor and ask: “How are you doing? How will this downturn affect your giving?” Donors appreciated Heritage’s high-touch approach, cementing their long-term commitment to the conservative cause. Then Heritage intensified its direct marketing campaign. “Those who do well in recessions come out strong. We didn’t want to show weakness,” says Feulner. The result? From 2005 to 2010, the organization doubled in size to $81 million, and nearly tripled its dues-paying membership base from 250,000 to more than 700,000 members.

Find opportunity in crisis

Fred Krupp, chief executive of the Environmental Defense Fund made the point: “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” It’s advice many of the nonprofits we studied have taken to heart. For EDF it was leveraging the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2009 to help spearhead the “biggest ecosystem restoration effort ever in the history of the planet,” says Mr. Krupp. For other nonprofits, it was about pivoting quickly to respond to immediate needs. “Of course we all pray that there will be no disasters,” says Habitat for Humanity’s chief executive, Jonathan Reckford. “But when they do occur, you have to be willing to adjust your efforts… [Hurricanes] Katrina and Rita, and the Indian Ocean Tsunami, were rallying points to kill cultural sacred cows about how we scale. With both events, we went much deeper in a smaller place and time.” Habitat built 25,000 homes in response to the tsunami and 2,000 in the Gulf region post-Katrina.

In addition to employing these immediate strategies to survive and thrive during the recession, these high-impact nonprofits all continue to follow the six practices we first identified. If anything, they’ve even deepened their reliance on these practices to increase their impact. They know how to tap into business to create new ways to serve the public good and how to influence government policies to help the people they serve. And they are constantly building movements of volunteers and supporters while working collaboratively with their nonprofit peers. Lastly, they continue to share leadership and remain highly adaptive, able to not just survive, but thrive in challenging times. In our updated book, we show how these organizations have continued to leverage the six practices to be forces for good, even in difficult times.

As for local organizations, we also learned a number of lessons about how smaller nonprofits can apply the same six practices to have deeper impact in their communities. In a lengthy chapter, featuring all new research on 13 high-impact local nonprofits, we explore how they adapt and modify these practices to fit the local context. Many of them share leadership not just within their organizations, but with their volunteers, board and other close stakeholders, thus expanding their reach. They also engage local evangelists to help deliver services and promote their cause, and they build networks of local nonprofits, collaborating to share resources, align action and be more effective in their work. Lastly, while advocacy and making markets work are more challenging for smaller, local nonprofits, that didn’t stop the best of them from using these levers to change policy at the state and local level or to make local markets work more effectively by working with and through business.

About the authors

Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant  co-authored Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits; the new updated edition (Jossey-Bass/Wiley 2012), includes lessons on how 12 high-impact nonprofits fared during the global recession and additional research on how local and smaller nonprofits employ the six practices to deepen impact in their own communities.

See also:

Do More Than Give

The NON Nonprofit

Building Nonprofit Capacity

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Go from mediocre to maximum board performance

Because so much of what board members do as a group is behind the scenes, we often forget the supremely important role they play in governing our nonprofits. Boards are a tricky aspect of leadership when you’re the executive director or CEO. When your board is ineffective, you have to succeed in spite of its mediocre performance. When your board is exceptional, it can multiply your efforts tenfold. Ironically in either case, the board still oversees your organization. However, with Kay Grace’s Ultimate Board Member’s Book guidelines, you can have an impact on whether your board is a help or hindrance.

Last week, in our live interview with Kay Sprinkel Grace, a participant asked “How do you ensure that a board is as equally concerned with fundraising as they are with governance?”

Define boundaries

Grace answered this question beautifully by addressing the importance of defining roles for a board member. “Too often I see board members drift into management areas rather than governance or fundraising, creating conflict with the staff,” says Grace. It’s up to the board development committee (see Grace’s discussion on this committee) to explain what the boundaries are when someone is recruited and trained. In other words, “This is your job as a board member and this is the management team’s job…” says Grace.

Keep them inspired

Secondly, keeping board members on task with governance and fundraising is a matter of keeping them inspired. Mission-level work and policy setting are heady tasks, and without any inspiration, it’s easy to see why some members float into undesignated areas. “Board members join you because they care about your organization or feel a connection with someone they respect on the board,” Kay adds. It’s up to you to keep them inspired so they feel invigorated to raise funds as well as focus on governance, policy setting, or budgeting.

Mission moments

If instead, you dazzle them during their recruitment process and leave them to the business of governing without regularly bolstering them with “mission moments,” you’re asking the board member to find their own inspiration. Left to themselves, they’ll gravitate toward the familiar, which are usually management matters. Mission moments are simply a time during the meetings when important mission-related anecdotal information is shared to inspire and motivate, says Grace.

Get them comfortable with the task of fundraising

Another surefire way of driving your board members to find tasks outside of their job description is to shoulder them with fundraising without any input. Without any say in how they are involved in development, some board members will identify another focus that isn’t necessarily helpful to the board objectives.

AAA fundraising

Kay Sprinkel Grace introduces a terrific way for addressing every level of comfort and expertise with fundraising at the board level in her book, The AAA Way to Fundraising Success. The process begins with asking your board to choose from three different roles in fundraising: 1) Ambassador, 2) Advocate, and 3) Asker. Then you spread the choices your board members have made on a matrix and develop a plan based on who will ask, advocate or serve as ambassador. “Because board members have chosen the role they want to play, their willingness to fulfill the identified role is amazing,” says Grace. Grace’s number one rule in this AAA program is that everyone is at least an ambassador.

What results from defining roles, keeping members inspired and implementing this AAA process is a board that is equally confident with raising money as they are with governing the organization.

See also:

The AAA Way to Fundraising Success

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

The Nonprofit Leadership Team

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Use your cultivation know-how for advocacy

Building a relationship with your elected officials is no different than cultivating a donor. You can’t expect to call them last minute on an important issue affecting your nonprofit and get results…unless you live in his or her district, but I digress.

Our current Page to Practice™ feature of the One-Hour Activist by Christopher Kush is a smart tutorial on making incremental progress on advocacy without detracting from your core responsibilities as an executive director, staff member or board member. Each of the “10 most powerful actions you can take to fight for the issues and candidates you care about” takes no more than an hour but cumulatively add up to a conscientious approach to advocacy for your cause. Kush also provides five “super-sized” actions that take more than an hour but are worth the effort.

Get to know your legislator: One of the most proactive measures you can take in advocacy no matter how involved you decide to be is to develop a relationship with your legislator. You may be wondering what value you can bring to your elected official by meeting with them. The answer is a lot.

Bring two clients: When I asked Kush about what nonprofit leaders can do when preparing for a meeting, he said, “There are always compelling stories related to important issues–it is usually a matter of taking the time to find them and refine them. I always ask nonprofit executives to ‘bring’ two clients with them whenever they come to Washington, DC, or the state Capitol. Nonprofit professionals should be ready to articulate the experiences of their front-line clients (members or constituencies). By the way, people who work for nonprofits often don’t realize they do have personal stories. Jobs are very interesting to elected officials right now, so just working for a local nonprofit can in and of itself be a compelling ‘story.’”

I dug deeper with Kush on this topic with the following question: In Part Five, you discuss the mistakes nonprofits make when meeting with lawmakers. What’s the most common among them? Here’s what Kush had to say:

Don’t overwhelm with aggregate stats on your issue–anecdotal information does more: You are in a pretty good position if you are actually meeting with lawmakers, even if you stumble. The first mistake is to NOT regularly (at least once a year) talk to your federal, state and local lawmakers to let them know whom you are serving and what the local trends are related to your issues. Any service a nonprofit provides is one less service lawmakers might be asked to provide in their local offices. Nonprofits that are nervous about tax status can be mindful about not making any specific legislative requests when communicating with their elected officials. (Don’t discuss any current legislation.) The biggest mistake if you ARE meeting with your legislator is to rely on massive aggregate statistics to make your impact. Almost all elected officials are far more engaged by small numbers–the number of people who are being served locally, the number of local jobs you provide, the names of local board members, etc.–than they are by the bland large numbers we often rely on to impress.

Watch for more Page to Practice interview highlights in our next blog.

See also:

One-Hour Activist Page to Practice feature

Christopher Kush and Soapbox Consulting

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Why leaders need to create connected cultures

Connection is “a bond among a group of people based on shared identity, empathy and understanding that moves self-centered people toward group-centered membership.” Nothing boosts the engagement of a social sector organization’s beneficiaries, employees, donors and volunteers like connection.

Connection is a universal phenomenon, though different cultures refer to connection using different words and phrases. The French phrase “esprit de corps,” which literally means “the spirit of the body,” describes a connection among people. The Japanese call connection “Ittaikan,” which means “to feel as one body of people.” In Kanji, it is  “一体感” (一 = one, 体  = body, 感 = sense or feeling of). Cohesion, unity, social capital and attachment are also ways to describe connection. It’s interesting to note the word “corporation” is based on the Latin root word “corpus,” which means “body.” The definition of corporation is “a group of people combined into one body.”

Our leadership training and coaching firm, E Pluribus Partners, has spoken, taught and consulted with all sorts of organizations, including Greenwich (Connecticut) High School, Texas Christian University (TCU), the NASA Johnson Space Center, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Google, Scotiabank (Canada) and ITV (London). Each of these organizations benefits from developing a “connection culture,” where people feel connected to their organization’s mission, values, reputation, supervisors, colleagues and day-to-day work responsibilities. When people feel connected to their organization, they give their best efforts, align their behavior with organizational goals, share information and insights with decision makers even when it may dangerous to do so, and participate in the organization’s marketplace of ideas that feeds innovation and creativity.

There are three elements in a “connection culture”: vision, value and voice.


Vision exists when everyone in the organization is motivated by the mission, united by the values and proud of the reputation. Social sector organizations can boost the element of vision in their cultures by having people who benefit from their organization’s work tell their stories to remind everyone he/she serves a cause greater than self. Also, I recommend people get together and share stories about how they live out their values, such as excellence, integrity, love of people, kindness, etc.


Value exists when all in the organization understand the needs of people, appreciate their unique positive contributions and help them achieve their potential. Value is the heart of a “connection culture.” I recommend organizations give employees permission to take breaks and go to lunch together so they can get to know one another as human beings. This develops intimacy, an essential element of trust. Not tolerating condescending, patronizing or passive aggressive behavior is also important to respect the dignity of all people. Supervisors can boost the element of value in a culture by getting to know the people they are responsible for leading, including their personal and career hopes and dreams, and helping them achieve those aspirations.


Voice exists when everyone in an organization seeks the ideas and opinions of others, shares his/her opinions honestly and safeguards relational connections. Keeping people in the loop and then seeking and considering their ideas and opinions on matters that are important to them help engage people. Leaders who have humility do this. Wise leaders like Ed Catmull, CEO of Pixar, are intentional about it. Pixar’s directors get together regularly to help each other produce the best films possible. Pixar director Brad Bird and his producer John Walker set up a meeting once a week with their team of 200 plus people working on a film to keep them in the loop. Brad and John wander the halls of Pixar, connecting with the people they lead, and they are much beloved for their caring personalities and commitment to producing films the team and Pixar family will be proud to have created. Brad and John’s first film at Pixar was The Incredibles, a massive hit worldwide.

Just connect

Research shows people who experience an abundance of connection in their lives are more energetic, more creative and better at solving problems. They also live longer, according to a recent 20-year study of workplaces. The bottom line is that connection = productivity and life, whereas disconnection = dysfunction and death.

If leaders will be intentional about developing work cultures with vision, value and voice, they will see their colleagues and the organization as a whole flourish. Connected people are happy people. That’s why it’s wise to just connect.

See also:

Fired Up or Burned Out

Nonprofit Organizational Culture Guide

Winning with a Culture of Recognition

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Join us for a “next gen” interview with Emily Davis

CausePlanet subscribers: Join us for our CausePlanet author interview series with Emily Davis on June 14 at 1 p.m. CST.  “Fundraising and the Next Generation: Tools for Engaging the Next Generation of Philanthropists” is Davis’ new book that will have you re-examining your prospect profiles.

Generation Y (a.k.a. Millennials) represent the largest population since Boomers. Cultivating these young prospects now and long term as they mature and have more to give is a revenue game changer for fundraisers. What are you doing to address this burgeoning donor constituency? Bring your questions for Davis to the interview or submit them when you register.

We look forward to touching on the book’s highlights through your questions:

• Explore how your organization can better use the next generation of volunteers to support your mission.
• Gain insight into the motivations and opinions of “next-gen” donors to help expand your fundraising focus.
• Ask hard questions and integrate strategies that better serve your organization’s mission for long-term sustainability.
• Find out how to engage your staff and volunteers in conversations about fundraising across generations.

How do CausePlanet subscribers register? Log in at the CausePlanet home page and click on the red link in the subscriber announcements page. If you have a question for Davis, don’t forget to submit one in the registration form. Subscribers can also download our new Page to Practice summary of her book beforehand. Posting soon!

Emily Davis has been working in the nonprofit sector as an executive director, staff member, consultant, founder, board member, and volunteer for over 15 years. She currently serves as the President of EDA Consulting in addition to many board and advisory roles in Colorado as well as nationally. She trains and consults on a number of different areas including board development, online communications, multigenerational philanthropy, and fundraising. Her passion for effective leadership has garnered numerous awards and nominations. Emily received her master’s degree in nonprofit management from Regis University.

Here’s what a recent author interview attendee had to say:

“Another outstanding presentation! CausePlanet has done an excellent job bringing together the experts and the audience for a genuinely interactive event packed with useful information. The opportunity to present questions beforehand and also to pose them live during the webinar is a unique feature that would enliven any topic. Absolutely recommended.

Matt Mullenix, Vice President of Public Relations, LANO

See also:

Liquid Leadership

Working Across Generations

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Using Facebook as an advocacy tool

While it’s natural to assume that social media has permeated all aspects of business, nothing rivals face-to-face meetings in grassroots advocacy, says The One-Hour Activist author and Soapbox Consulting CEO, Christopher Kush. I caught up with Kush in our interview and asked about the popularity of email and other social media. He cited one client in particular that used Facebook to generate interest in face-to-face advocacy events. Here’s the excerpt:

CausePlanet: In Part Two, you present several helpful sections on writing an effective letter or email to your legislator so it gets read and circulated versus simply counted. Additionally, you cover skillful phone calls. Since the book was published, have communication preferences changed at all with the growing prevalence of email? And, are faxes still viable? (All coming in second to face-to-face, of course.)

Kush: It is fascinating how face-to-face interactions with lawmakers have remained powerful despite the social media explosion. Candidates for office love the prospect of clever video appeals “going viral,” but after the elections, the legislative process has proven difficult for social media to manipulate. I think one reason is that some core aspects of social media are a mismatch with legislative influence. Things like anonymity, speed of communication, depth of understanding and lack of geographic awareness all mitigate against social media’s effectiveness in the Capitol.

And now for some praise: This year, I saw several of my clients use Facebook to generate interest in face-to-face advocacy events. The Fragile X Foundation in particular was able to double the number of families who attended their 2012 Washington, DC, conference by providing a place where people could post their excitement about returning to the conference, seeing other folks they had met the year before, and following up in person with their legislators. Now, that was an example of social media making a strategic contribution by complementing more traditional approaches to influence (like face-to-face interaction).

See also:

Charity Case

The One-Hour Activist

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Breakthrough fundraising strategies for tireless grantseekers

Six mistakes even experienced fundraisers make and how to avoid them

1) Make sure you are asking for the right amount.

2) Do the math: keep track of your success rate.

3) Learn the rules, then break them.

4) Cultivate good relationships and update your grantors, even when you aren’t asking for money.

5) Participate in a grants review committee and learn how proposals are scored firsthand.

6) If you get declined, find out why.

A closer look at motivating grant makers

1) Make sure you are asking for the right amount.

When submitting a grant proposal, it is essential to find out what the grant making organization’s average gift size is, so you can be sure your request is on target. You can learn this by looking at their 990’s, which are public documents available through places like your local library and county public records office or online through the Foundation Center database or Guidestar directory. Many foundations and corporate charitable giving arms list the names and award amounts of their grantees on their website, but if you want to dig a little deeper into a particular foundation’s giving history, The Foundation Center directory will allow you to pull up the average, largest and smallest gift a foundation has made over the last few years. You may be eligible for a larger grant amount than you think and many organizations err on the side of asking for too little. Do not get caught in the cycle of asking for $10,000 every year just because you always have. You may discover that another organization with a similar mission and operating budget has been receiving larger grants each year and you have not because you didn’t ask for it.

2) Do the math: keep track of your success rate.

If you want to increase your grant dollars, it is very important to know what the overall success rate of your organization is. To do this, you must calculate how many proposals you submitted over the course of one year, the total dollar amount of all requests submitted, and the number and total dollar amount of grants awarded that year. If you received 30% of the total amount requested and you need to raise $100,000 in grant funding this year, you will need to plan to make $300,000 in grants over the next 12 months. Then you will find that doing step one, making sure you are asking for the right amount, will help you plan the total number of proposals and dollar amounts per request to submit to meet your fundraising goal. This is assuming you are asking for funding from places you already know are a good match, are interested in your mission and have either funded you or other nonprofits like yours in the past.

3) Learn the rules, then break them.

You can compare the next point to writing. In order to become a good writer, you first have to learn good grammar and punctuation rules, but once you understand the basics, you can intentionally break the rules to establish your own style. I have seen this rule-breaking trend often over the past few years, as the economy has hit nonprofits particularly hard. I have seen organizations that were facing a deficit budget or were at risk of closing their doors make a special appeal to foundations for the funding they needed to carry through. We have to remember that these grant-making organizations are not banks but are made up of real people who care about your mission, probably for some very personal reasons. If you need emergency funding or have a time sensitive project, go to your grantors outside of their grants cycle, explain your situation and ask for permission to submit a special request. This tactic is not likely to work with government agencies or strict corporate giving arms but may be probable with family foundations where you have built good personal relationships with people who care about your work.

4) Cultivate good relationships and stay in touch with grantors, even when you aren’t asking for money.

Make a habit of sending a monthly update to your donors so they stay current on what is happening with your organization. There are several things you can do to keep the communication open, such as sending newspaper clippings, sending out photos of special events, and if your major donors are accessible, set a date to have lunch once a quarter. It is very important to make sure they know when you reach certain milestones and when you are truly struggling. Find out why they are personally interested in your work. You may not always want to grow or operate in exactly the way your donors want you to, but keeping communications open and giving them plenty of opportunities to stay involved and feel good about supporting you will help strengthen your partnerships and make it a lot easier to go to them for increased funding when you need it.

5) Participate in a grants review committee and learn how proposals are scored firsthand.

Many places like the United Way, government agencies and local community foundations use volunteer review committees to score proposals and make decisions on how to distribute the funds available to various organizations. A great way to learn about the scoring and distribution process is to volunteer to serve on one of these committees. Some committees divide the proposals into sections, score each part individually and then fund the ones with the highest overall score. Participating in one of these review committees is a great way to see how the process works firsthand. By doing so, you are being a good citizen and getting involved in important decisions for your community. It is best to avoid any conflict of interest, so if for example you are involved in an arts organization, choose to serve on a committee around education. The process is the same and it will help you understand how people outside your world view your work.

6) If you get declined, find out why.

You may have to ask more than once to get a real answer, but if your proposal is declined, do not accept the standard response form that says, thank you for submitting your request but unfortunately we have limited funding at this time. Make sure you have a real conversation with the foundation’s program officer about why you were turned down, and if there was a review committee, ask to see how the proposal was scored. Read the reviewer’s comments and share that information with your colleagues. It is impossible to improve your overall success rate if you do not have a real understanding of why the proposal was declined. Sometimes, the answer truly is that there was not enough funding and the donor is supporting organizations with which he/she has a long history. If you can commit yourself to engaging someone in a real conversation after each decline, you will take great strides to improve your process and your success rate.

See also:

Level Best: How Small and Grassroots Nonprofits Can Tackle Evaluation and Talk Results

Storytelling for Grantseekers

The Ultimte Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants



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Eight must-know grassroots concepts

For every position there is an opposition. It’s what makes our democracy work. If you lead a nonprofit organization, there’s no doubt an issue or candidate can influence how effectively you raise money or advocate for systemic change. Some even argue an investment in advocacy is an “upstream solution” and preferable to isolated direct service downstream.

The One-Hour Activist: The 15 Most Powerful Actions You Can Take to Fight for the Issues and Candidates You Care About presents a nonpartisan, thorough checklist of tactical best practices for engaging in advocacy on behalf of issues and candidates you care about.

Author Christopher Kush has distilled the essential activities that will help you understand how your letter, email or request for a face-to-face meeting with your lawmaker can be heard above the noise. He covers nuances in relating to your elected officials, leveraging the media, navigating public hearings, analyzing bills, joining public interest groups and much more. The book title may say 15, but Kush highlights 20 specific actions that can advance your cause.

In Part One of Kush’s book, he emphasizes eight important grassroots concepts and I’ll share them with you:

1) Voting isn’t enough. Once you’ve gotten your candidate elected, you can’t expect issues to go your way; the work has only begun.
2) Geography is the single most important thing about you and your issue. If you live in the elected official’s district, he/she wants to make you happy. Period.
3) One angry letter won’t change the world.
4) Instant grassroots (like signing online petitions) is not especially effective. Personalized letters with individual anecdotes and stories are.
5) Money is part of the game. If you refuse to take out your checkbook, you’re leaving an important weapon out of your arsenal.
6) Elected officials are real people with all the complexity and imperfection that implies. Genuinely try to understand who your elected officials are.
7) One successful grassroots campaign will not settle your issues once and for all. The issues worth fighting for will be ongoing, long-term battles.
8) “Staying on message” is the ultimate law of grassroots activism. Everyone who cares about a given issue must make the same exact request, no matter how individualized his/her justification for that request is.

Watch for more highlights in the coming weeks about The One-Hour Activist by Christopher Kush.

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Using stories for advantage: the art and process of narrative

Effective stories that win both the listeners’ hearts and minds are critical communications tools that can enable leaders to achieve difficult strategic goals. When crafted with emotion and logic, potent stories not only help make sense of disparate facts, but they can also motivate people to undertake a formidable challenge or make consequential changes in behavior.

But too often, leaders wing their way through their communications, only to find that they aren’t getting the results they want. What if the reason a leader is not persuasive lies in how they are telling the story? Effective narratives are largely the product of discipline and structure, not merely art or creative serendipity. And discipline and structure can be enhanced by learning how to present them using story-telling techniques. Leaders can learn to be better storytellers and in doing so, increase the likelihood they will achieve their strategic goals.

In our practice, we have found that skilled leaders focus on four elements when crafting effective narratives: audience, purpose, acts, and flow. Effective storytellers know and understand their audience. They have a well-defined purpose for communicating with that audience. Together these insights influence the narrative choices they make about what to say and how to say it.

Effective storytellers also choose the relevant building blocks of information to include – what we call the ‘‘acts’’ of the story. Then they create a flow that sequences these acts into a narrative arc. They connect the ideas, layer in key themes and imagery, and pace the delivery. Taken together, this process can create an engaging and coherent story that communicates a well-conceived purpose to a particular audience. This greatly increases the likelihood that the result will be a desired change in audience behavior.

Each of these four elements involves a fundamental choice for leaders.

Understand these elements, and you’ll be able to get your message across using the right architecture for persuasion.

1. Audience: Effective leaders know what different key audience members care about and what moves them. They see things through the audience’s eyes. Ultimately, the success of your presentation depends on your ability to reconcile how you convey a particular message with how your audience understands the exchange, processes the information, and feels about the experience. All audiences have a rational and emotional side. On the one hand, the audience is looking for a rational explanation for the things they care about. On the other hand, the audience will be influenced by experiences, biases, and feelings.

2. Purpose: Persuasive leaders have a concrete picture of what they are trying to accomplish with a story, and the actions they want the audience to take. The purpose of a story represents
your reason for telling the narrative, to this particular audience, at this particular point in time, and on this particular subject.

3. Acts: Acts are the component parts of a story that help you determine what you’re trying to achieve with each section of the performance. Each act has a specific role, and they combine in different ways to form a narrative. Effective narratives have simple and elegant structures that don’t cram too many acts into the story, and don’t jump back and forth between acts in a confusing manner. Every message should support exactly one act.

4. Flow: Some people are natural storytellers. They are a small minority. The rest of the population needs explicit guidance to make their storytelling flow. Everyone can learn from those effective communicators whose presentations routinely employ a logical sequence of appropriate acts. When joined together in a purposeful way, with thought to the flow and pacing of each step, a series of well-chosen acts can create a compelling and clear narrative structure. Flow involves attention to foreshadowing and echoing, balancing foreground and background, maintaining internal consistency, creating a deliberate rhythm, and incorporating tension.

Putting it all together

As you integrate these concepts into your speechmaking, remember a few key things. Storytelling is as much an art as it is a science. Successful storytelling requires both structure and creativity.

With some practice, leaders can learn to construct effective stories (and how to improve their own presentations by deconstructing the effective stories they hear). Ultimately, this systematic approach promises to illuminate the choices a leader faces prior to making a presentation and provides a proven structure to make them. A deeper understanding of audiences, a more thoughtful and methodical purpose, and a clear and deliberate narrative structure consisting of carefully chosen acts and inspired flow all combine to yield purposeful results – a powerful message effectively delivered, received and acted upon.

Special thanks to Randall and Harms for this excerpt. Read the full article.

See also:

Storytelling for Grantseekers

Content Marketing for Nonprofits

Seeing Through A Donor’s Eyes

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