Archive for August, 2012

Get smart on QR Codes with Joe Waters

They’re everywhere from billboards to business cards. They’re gaining momentum so people don’t mistake them for decorative designs anymore. QR (Quick Response) Codes are the latest technological advance and now with Joe Waters’ assistance, you can access them with ease. Waters’ new portable edition of QR Codes for Dummies covers everything you need to know, including how to access them, create them, troubleshoot and use them effectively.

Even though Waters honestly admits QR Codes may not stick around forever, as technology is fickle and fast-paced, their purpose will always serve. They are a way to “link the offline world with online content” or simply, they are “offline hyperlinks.“So, the codes may be replaced with other devices or methods, but this new wave of “offline hyperlinks” through some type of code/method is here to stay. Waters asserts the “third screen,” i.e. the one found on smart phones, is taking over, which is where you access QR Codes.

The basics

With illustrations and extensive, clear explanations, Joe Waters shows you how to download a QR code reader, scan it and link to the site. He even provides codes with which to practice. The benefit of QR codes vs. bar codes is they store more information and link more easily online. He also explains how to create your own QR code by choosing and downloading a mobile generator. Other available features include abilities to test, accessorize and track the codes. One of the most useful pieces of a QR Code is the ability to track its use, including where and how often it is scanned. Waters’ constant advice, though, is to keep it simple and non repetitive. Make sure your QR Code links to new information on a website or URL. For example, if a restaurant provides a menu with a QR Code, the code should not link to another copy of the menu online, but should give more information, such as ingredients or how the food is specially prepared.

General uses

“In 2011, a survey of 415 smart phone users by marketing firm MGH in Baltimore, Maryland, showed that consumers would scan a QR Code for these top reasons [most used to least used]: 1) to get a coupon, discount, ordeal; 2) enter a sweepstakes; 3) access additional information; 4) make a purchase; 5) sign up to receive more information; 6) access video; and 7)interact with social media properties.” If you look at this list, you can see the trend is catching on with consumers, as you are seeing them in grocery stores, in businesses and most recently, in women’s magazines. (Interestingly, in 2011, women’s magazines led in QR codes’ use).

Nonprofit sector specific uses

The nonprofit sector, as in any business, needs to spread the word about QR Codes, explaining what they are and how to use them. They can place them on email signatures, on all marketing materials, in presentations and at conferences. These codes could link to a nonprofit’s website or other pertinent information. Joe Waters focuses on using QR Codes with fundraising and cause marketing in the following ways: The QR code can link to pictures, video, etc. that tell your organization’s story or educates your visitor. The codes can link to a donation page, thank-you page, petition page, frequently asked questions page or informative page about a demonstration. They can also link to your Facebook page so scanners can like your organization. Finally, QR Codes are the best option right now for mobile giving. Waters suggests as a service to connect to a donation page and a link to your PayPal account. The advantage of a QR code over a text campaign, says Waters, is you can donate any amount you want versus a set amount with a text.

Waters, in no uncertain terms, states that nonprofits can lag in the latest technology use, suggesting it could help them with their good work. QR codes are an easily accessible, growing way to market your cause effectively and the best way to connect people with your online newsletters, donation page and other information. Getting the word out is half the battle, which can be fought with another weapon, the QR Code.

Waters has extended a special promotion for our CausePlanet readers. Please email him, telling him you read about his book on CausePlanet, and he will send you an entire chapter of “QR Codes for Dummies” free. His email is

You can follow more of Joe Waters’ cause marketing insights at

See also:

Fundraising with Businesses

Image credit:


Leave a reply

Ecology of grant seeking: Are you the lion or the house cat?

In our Page to Practice™ summary of “Winning Foundation Grants” by Martin Teitel, we promised you some excerpts of Part Four: “Administering the truth-detector test to America’s charitable foundations.” Teitel offers his best and most truthful answers to some of the questions his readers wanted to know.  In the passages below, Teitel addresses scope and summary statements in the grant proposal process.

Readers: “The chance of a local nonprofit securing funding from a major foundation is slim to none.”

Teitel: True, and a good thing this is. In the ecology of grant seekers and grant makers, appropriateness of scale matters. This is why house cats don’t run down wildebeests on the Serengeti—lions do that job; house cats chase mice. I don’t see much downside to the question of scale. Local funders know their communities, the players and the problems and the strategies that work in their areas—they’re the ones best equipped to help local groups. Even so, national foundations I worked for regularly received inquiries and proposals from locally focused nonprofits. Such mismatches waste resources. These groups would often claim their work was potentially national in scope because someone could replicate it (they planned to write a report and post it on the Web, after all). But just as the photos I snapped in Melbourne don’t make me an Australian, a posted report doesn’t make the project national or global. A national strategy is just that – a strategy for creating change that occurs at a scale and scope you can explain in detail. In thirty-five years as a funder, I never once saw the claim of being a model work out. Everyone is a model for the rest of the world, just as my kids are model children.

Readers: “With the mountain of proposals foundations receive, if the summary doesn’t immediately capture attention, your proposal is doomed.

Teitel: True. If you’re in a bookstore, do you buy a book without looking at the blurb on the back? If you’re on Amazon, don’t you usually scan the reviews? It’s not realistic to think that foundation staff diligently read every word of every submission. So although obsessiveness is usually a hindrance in life, it may not be possible to over-fixate about the quality of your summary. That’s what dictates whether your proposal itself will be read or not.

For more perspectives on grant seeking and Teitel’s book, watch for our second installment of administering the truth-detector test in our Page to Practice™ blog next week. You can also read Cindy Willard’s response to Teitel’s book . For Teitel’s book, visit

See also:

The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth is Changing the World
Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity
Level Best: How Small and Grassroots Nonprofits Can Tackle Evaluation and Talk Results

Leave a reply

Foundation relationships: neighbors, not friends

Rarely do I come across a book where the author, who’s been on the inside of a foundation, is sharing the grant maker’s perspective like Martin Teitel does. His sense of humor and quick wit make The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants a fast and informative read. New and seasoned nonprofit leaders alike will find the author’s insights immensely practical.

This book contains insider information no one before has revealed and Teitel does it with complete transparency. Teitel wrote this book with the goal of leveling the playing field. Enjoy this interview excerpt with Teitel about the best partnerships he’s observed and the single most important idea he wants you to take away from his book.

CausePlanet: Will you characterize the best grantor/grantee relationships you’ve been part of or have observed?

Martin Teitel: This might be where I’m supposed to say “partnership,” but that’s not true. A foundation is making a largely unaccountable, barely transparent decision according to its own standards. I can’t see that as leading to a real partnership. So I’d say the best–meaning the healthiest and most successful relationships between grant seekers and makers–are frank and business-like. I think of grantees not as friends, but more like neighbors. My neighbors and I have clear boundaries, we try to keep everything pleasant and we don’t look to neighborly interactions for deep personal gratification. I choose my friends but I don’t choose my neighbors, nor the people I work with.

CausePlanet: What is the single most important idea you want readers to take away?

Martin Teitel: Foundation funding has to be put in its place. When foundation grants are a limited portion of a diverse mix that supports your work, your organization will be more independent and more stable. Far too often I see hard-pressed staffers casting about wildly in the foundation world after they’ve done an especially hard-nosed cash flow projection, wasting time trying for funds that could only arrive when it’s too late. They could have been using that energy to build support with smaller but faster and more reliable increments from other sources.

Read more author interview excerpts in next week’s post or insider highlights about winning grants in this month’s Page to Practice™ feature of Winning Foundation Grants by Martin Teitel.

See also:

The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth is Changing the World

Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity

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

Leave a reply

Collective impact and what this trend means for your organization

Many trends in the nonprofit sector pop up and then fizzle as quickly as they have appeared, while a few stick around and have a significant impact on how organizations operate. After having the opportunity to work with a few organizations that are pursuing a collective impact model and hearing this term at nearly every meeting I attend, I am convinced this trend is one that will stick around and could result in fundamentally changing the way some organizations do their work and achieve their missions. Additionally, many funders are enthusiastic about the concept of collective impact and how such models have the potential to really advance social change and improve outcomes in specific sectors, like education.

If you are not familiar with this concept, an article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review’s Winter 2011 edition (see link at the bottom of this article) summarizes it this way, “Unlike most collaborations, collective impact initiatives involve a centralized infrastructure, a dedicated staff, and a structured process that leads to a common agenda, shared measurement, continuous communication, and mutually reinforcing activities among all participants.” Essentially, individual organizations, often from across the different sectors, work together to define common goals and intended outcomes and then work in a coordinated manner to achieve their often audacious goals over time.

One long-time critique of the nonprofit sector has been that many small organizations work in isolation, essentially using up resources to only peck at very complex problems. In the view of the authors, John Kania and Mark Kramer, of SSIR’s “Collective Impact” article, the result is that “nearly 1.4 million nonprofits try to invent independent solutions to major social problems, often working at odds with each other and exponentially increasing the perceived resources required to make meaningful progress.” With a collective impact approach, organizations across sectors start working in a coordinated and aligned manner with the goal of making significantly greater progress on the issue they are addressing with the additional goal of better utilizing resources.

Moving your organization toward a full collective impact model requires willing partners across sectors, a long-term view and often a dramatically different approach to your work. Thus, it can be out of reach for some nonprofit organizations. Still, organizations can learn from and adapt some of these approaches to improve their effectiveness without becoming part of a full collective impact project. Consider the following ideas as a few places to start in thinking about what the collective impact trend means for your organization:

Help board and staff members understand the collective impact model as an emerging and important trend in the nonprofit sector. Share the SSIR article during board and staff meetings and allow time to discuss the implications for your organization’s work.

    Get a sense of how other organizations, inside and outside of your community, are using this approach to accomplish goals that are similar to your organization’s goals.

      As part of your next planning process, consider how elements of a collective impact approach could be applied to your organization’s approach and programs.

        Consider how better aligning your goals and measures of success with partner organizations could help improve outcomes and effectiveness for everyone involved.

          If you could see the collective impact idea working for your organization and your mission focus area, start working with partners to possibly put this kind of model into effect. More organizations are becoming involved in these kinds of initiatives, so some of your colleagues maybe able to share ideas and lessons learned to help you get started in advancing this kind of approach. Nationally, the Strive Partnership ( is one of the more prominent examples of collective impact in action. Locally in Colorado, Boulder IMPACT ( and the Adams County Youth Initiative ( are two examples of organizations advancing this model in different ways and at different stages of development.

            With the concept of collective impact gaining momentum and support and resources continuing to become more scarce, it is essential for nonprofit leaders to consider how their organizations could achieve more through these kinds of deep partnerships. For organizations working on complex social problems, collective impact approaches may become the standard, so your organization should be prepared to shift your approach, take part and possibly provide leadership in this new way of working.

            You can read more about collective impact, example initiatives and how such initiatives are often structured here:

            See also:

            Do More Than Give

            The Power of Collaborative Solutions

            Image credit:


            Leave a reply

            Management vs. leadership: the problem with silos

            This article first appeared in the Kotter International Newsletter.

            Silos can be found in global corporations or in start-up ventures with 15 employees and no matter the size, they are detrimental to an organization’s ability to succeed in a rapidly changing world. It’s important to note silos can be vertical or horizontal. Functions and divisions can have high barriers between them or senior leadership can be completely isolated from lower management levels.

            A siloed organization cannot act quickly on opportunities that arise in a fast-paced business landscape and are unable to make productive decisions about how to change in order to seize these opportunities.

            Can you recognize when silos are forming in your organization? There are several signs. First, are you surprised to hear about projects taking place in other divisions? Are these projects well underway without you ever knowing about them? Second, do you communicate infrequently with other leaders around the organization? Finally, have you been championing an opportunity or project for a while, and a large subset of the organization doesn’t know about it or understand why you are pursuing it?

            To eliminate silos, you must bring people across the organization together. There are several ways you can do this:

            Bring the outside in: Ensure divisions share data with one another so people understand how each division is performing, what customer or external stakeholder complaints are and where there is room for improvement. Make it clear needed changes are an important opportunity to galvanize action, but it’s not a blame game. Frame changes that must be made as organizational, not divisional.

            Focus on opportunity, not crisis: While crisis can be a catalyst for action, fear can also send people running for the door. If you frame the organization’s need to break down silos as a positive opportunity, you will see more people raising their hands to help make it happen. Help people in different divisions understand how they have a chance to make the organization better and more powerful by eliminating the barriers between divisions or management levels.

            Create a “guiding coalition” that breaks down barriers: Bring together a team of people committed to changing the way the organization operates, composed of people from all levels, divisions and locations. Don’t pick this team; ask people to apply for it to gauge their levels of commitment.

            Once formed, hold an inaugural in-person meeting that allows members to connect to each other with both hearts and minds as a way to build trust among them. Set regular meetings, such as quarterly in-person gatherings and bi-weekly conference calls, to maintain momentum. Encourage group members to communicate outside of organized meetings and more importantly, filter messages about the group’s activities to others in their respective divisions or offices. Finally, ensure senior leadership stays closely involved with the guiding coalition – without this involvement, the group cannot make needed change happen.

            See also:


            A Sense of Urgency

            Image credit:


            Leave a reply

            Leadership succession: Are term limits for executive staff too easy a way out?

            The idea of term limits for executive staff leaders in nonprofit organizations came up in a LinkedIn group recently. It’s a provocative concept, one that incited a range of comments and got me thinking.

            For the most part, nonprofits take for granted that board governance should specify term limits for its members and officers. It’s a good thing, too. There’s more than ample evidence that organizations without term limits eventually experience problems: stagnating board involvement, decreasing vitality and innovation, and in some cases, a leadership stranglehold by a few individuals.

            But should terms apply to executive staff positions as well? LinkedIn members viewed the idea with skepticism, even considered it radical and for some, threatening. And I can understand why. One person explained in smaller communities where the pool of qualified candidates is limited, it would be onerous and even risky to the nonprofit’s health and stability to institute staff terms. Another suggested he saw no reason for terms if the executive was still performing well. And someone said it was out of the question in an economic slump like the one we’re in.

            As I considered the proposition, I realized the idea of a leadership staff life cycle occurs organically in all organizations. In other words, all nonprofits at some point outgrow their leadership staff and need to address this eventuality. Some address it more directly and strategically; others tragically, only when the situation has become dire.

            The organizations attuned to the signs of staff leadership “terms” expiring consider and plan for leadership succession as part of their strategic planning and executive leadership evaluation processes.

            Those organizations not explicitly attuned will instead be confronted with the symptoms of leadership that signify it is “beyond its expiration date,” such as declining mission relevance, morale issues, financial problems, etc. The more aware organizations are that all things have a life cycle–boards, staff, the nonprofit organization as a whole–the better they can prepare for change.

            For example, the most challenging leadership transition in any organization is from the founder to the organization’s first executive leader after the founder (or the similar situation of an executive director who has been with an organization for decades). The transition from the founder comes for all organizations and yet too often is left unspoken until things turn for the worse. This is because many organizations are unable or unwilling to overcome the emotionality surrounding the transition, not to mention the founders themselves. And yet, this transition is a critical one for boards and executive staff to foresee and prepare for well in advance to ensure the stability and longevity of the organization in the future. Not doing this may be a way to avoid ruffled feelings but it puts the organization at risk, which should be an unacceptable trade.

            So, while I find the concept of leadership staff terms useful, I think it may be too prescriptive a solution given the huge range of circumstances in nonprofit organizations. One organization’s appropriate executive leadership tenure will be another’s stagnating yoke and yet another’s “blink and you missed it” time period. For example, a mature and stable organization will have different needs from its executive than a start-up, so an arbitrary number of years for leadership terms while easy, doesn’t make good sense.

            The bellwether for when leadership should turn over has everything to do with what the nonprofit currently requires.

            Instead of prescriptive term limits for executives, I endorse that nonprofit organizations build into their planning and evaluation processes explicit conversations about this issue and develop policy and plans to guide a consistent leadership succession process. And such processes should apply to all major executive staff, from executive director to development director, administrators, CFOs and program directors. Evaluation processes for these positions should be developed with criteria defined to drive optimal performance by the nonprofit. This too will change over time and so must the evaluation process and criteria for each executive position.

            And to circumvent much of the high emotion that can surround the topic of leadership succession, bring all executive staff aboard with full awareness of the nonprofit’s values, plans and process in this area so  individuals understand it isn’t personal to them but rather, simply the way the nonprofit does business.

            The biggest problem in the area of leadership succession is too many nonprofits just plain get comfortable when things are working well.

            The “don’t rock the boat” mentality kicks in–and they forget  at some point things will change. Perhaps setting term limits would help make sure this doesn’t happen. But even better is remembering the only constant is change and being prepared for those predictable changes should be the nonprofit’s standard procedure. The need for executive staff turnover is one such predictable change. Not only does it make sense to plan for this to foster innovation and organizational relevance, it is one of the smartest ways to avoid crisis, highly emotional, or at worst, litigious situations.

            See also:

            Nonprofit-Know How

            Image credit:






            Leave a reply

            Doom and gloomers need not apply

            On our CausePlanet Facebook page last week, I couldn’t help but ask if you could guess author Martin Teitel’s pithy one-word answer to my interview question, “What is the most common mistake grant seekers make when hosting a site visit?” I left you hanging over the weekend to think about it before I answered on Monday. Read carefully for his answer below—otherwise you might miss it. I’ve also included Martin’s response to his favorite interview question about compelling grant proposals.

            CausePlanet: In your experience, what consistent ingredient contributes to the most compelling grant proposals?

            Martin Teitel: I love this question. Great proposals say, “We’re doing this wonderful work; here’s an opportunity for you to join us in making it even better.” These sparkling proposals are invitations to share success, not threats or forecasts of doom. The reader of one of these compelling proposals becomes infected with optimism and hope. This is not Pollyannaism: thorny issues aren’t avoided, but neither are they used as a club to smash the possibility of things getting better. In the end, the funder puts the proposal down on her desk and thinks, “I want to be part of this.”

            CausePlanet: What is the most common mistake grant seekers make when hosting a site visit?

            Martin Teitel: Groveling.

            Read the full interview and highlighted passages in our Page to Practice™ book summary of  Teitel’s new book “The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants.”

            See also:

            The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth is Changing the World

            Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity

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


            Leave a reply

            Welcome! Please provide your log-in information below.
            Forget your password?
            Enter your email or user name and your log-in information will be sent to the email on file.