Archive for January, 2014

Waters’ new book gives you license to steal

“To be successful in anything you need inspiration. It’s what drives us to keep pushing and excelling. Without it you just hit a dead end. You stop learning and exploring,” explains cause marketing author Joe Waters.

Joe Waters recently inspired us with his new book Fundraising with Businesses: 40 New and Improved Strategies for Nonprofits, which tells a great success story in each of his 40 chapters dedicated to a revenue strategy with companies. I’ve excerpted one of his stories to give you inspiration and glimpse of Waters’ numerous featured partnerships:

Hashtag fundraiser

Over the holidays in 2012, global supermarket chain Lidl offered to donate five four-course Christmas dinners to food banks in Belgium for each tweet with the hashtag #luxevooriedereen, which is Dutch for “luxury for everyone.” The campaign went viral and spread rapidly on Twitter. While Lidl had privately committed to only 1,000 meals, they graciously increased their donation to 10,000 meals.

License to steal!

Waters advises you that when your nonprofit uses hashtag fundraisers and social media in general, you have to plan for the unexpected and be clear on your donation. After Waters explores the case story, some of the meaty sections that follow are “How it Works in 1-2-3,” “Things to Remember,” and “Steal These Ideas!” Who wouldn’t want to read a section called “Steal These Ideas!”? Brilliant.

Too big, too small or just right?

Despite the fact that cause marketing has been in existence since the early 1980s, author Joe Waters is still surprised by the amount of confusion surrounding this idea. Additionally, smaller nonprofits that represent the bulk of our sector are misdiagnosing why great cause marketing partnerships are passing them by and going to the bigger nonprofits. Too often, smaller charities approach businesses for cash gifts when they could be leveraging much more if they are willing to get creative.

“Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you have to think small,” says Waters. He asks, “What if the business is new or struggling?” Does your strategy account for the other assets the business may bring to the table if it can’t write a check? Or, if the company does have money to give, can you see beyond the check and realize the enormous amount of possible donations from customers and employees through an innovative campaign?

Welcome pieces of advice

Each of Waters’ chapters are further bolstered by advice boxes where Waters shares best practices in areas such as “Three Types of Decision Makers,” “Four Ways to Turn Unwanted Gifts Into Nonprofit Gold,” or “Ten Fundraising Ideas for B2B [Business to Business] Companies.”

I encourage you to indulge in a little guilt-free stealing and experiment with Waters’ Fundraising with Businesses. Your bottom line won’t be sorry.

See also:

The End of Fundraising: Raise More by Selling Your Impact

How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money

The Influential Fundraiser

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Strategy from the inside-out: an introduction

This series of articles, of which this is the first installment, from Mike Stone explores the core concepts of a strategic planning approach for nonprofits. Mike welcomes feedback on these concepts, which will be included in a book manuscript.

“In an effort to save the bottom line, the modern nonprofit risks losing its soul.”– Bill E. Landsberg (“The Nonprofit Paradox: For-Profit Business Models in the Third Sector,” The International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law Volume 6, Issue 2, January 2004)

The Need for a Nonprofit Model of Strategy

One challenge in the development of nonprofit strategy is the absence of an approach that is sensitive to the nuances of the nonprofit environment. Granted, basic business practices and controls are essential to a healthy nonprofit. But the traditional for-profit models of strategic planning do not serve nonprofits because they ignore the fundamental differences between the two sectors. For example:

•          Nonprofit growth is constrained by a social mission. The overriding goal of a for-profit company is to stay in business, usually by expanding markets and increasing profits. For all the social good that may be created by for-profit businesses, the fact remains that they are unencumbered in their desire to shift products and services when a market opportunity presents itself. Not so for nonprofits, which operate under the influence of a governor of sorts, keeping the organization from exceeding the limits of its stated social mission.

•          Nonprofits cannot create uncontested market space. For all the wisdom of the pioneering approach to market expansion, “blue oceans” exist for nonprofits only if those metaphorical waters are populated with potential clients and willing payers. Whereas for-profits can respond to consumer demand based on the traditional free market relationship between buyer and seller, a nonprofit must have both consumer need and third-party support in order to succeed in a given market.

•          Bigger is not always better. The economic reality is that many nonprofits lose money on every client served (which is why the traditional market will not support the work and consequently, why fundraising is so important). For these nonprofits, reaching more people, a common strategic goal, means losing even more money. Strategic growth, a more appropriate goal, may mean doing less, perhaps for fewer people, but with greater precision and intensity. Greater mission impact is always better.

An Alternative Approach to Strategy

The central premise of my approach to strategy development is that nonprofits, like people, are at their best when they start from an inner core of self-awareness and then move outward into the world. For individuals, this means not trying to be someone you are not. For nonprofit organizations, it means pursuing mission impact rather than growth for the sake of growth. Individuals call it vocation. For nonprofit organizations, it is called strategy.

At its base, strategy is about organizational positioning. More specifically, nonprofit strategy is about finding that organizational “sweet spot” that allows for the greatest amount of mission impact in the most financially sustainable manner. The strategic position centers on the formulation of position statements in three areas:

–          The Program Position, which states what you will do, for whom, and to what end.

–          The Market Position, which defines how you will relate to those within your domain of operation.

–          The Resource Position, which outlines the desired mix and sources of funding.

For nonprofits, strategy inheres in the bringing together of the three elements of organizational position into a cohesive vision for the nonprofit. But like young college graduates trying to find their way in the world, the greatest challenge for nonprofits often is knowing where to start.

The Organizational Core

Building strategy from the inside-out begins with two fundamental questions:

1.         Who are we as an organization?

2.         How can we build on who we are to create the greatest mission impact in the most sustainable manner?

The starting point for nonprofits strategy development is the organizational core. The organizational core represents a distillation of the organization’s activities to reveal the basic elements – the organizational essence – from which its impact emanates. The organizational core is comprised of the four organizational characteristics contained in the following statement:

•          The use of your defining qualities to address the highest priority needs of your primary clientele within your domain of operation.

The organizational core is the building block of nonprofit strategy. To begin, the core provides a framing mechanism through which current programs and services are assessed for strategic fit. This is useful particularly in organizations that face challenges related to long-term sustainability. And as organizations look forward, the core provides a lens through which the organization can identify strategic growth opportunities.

The strategy driver is derived from the organizational core and provides the impetus for strategic growth. Using the organizational core as the starting point, nonprofit strategy can be driven in one of three ways:

•          A client-driven strategy builds on current efforts to meet the highest priority needs of the organization’s primary clientele.

•          A service-driven strategy builds on the defining qualities (i.e., competencies, expertise, etc.) and seeks to apply and/or adapt programs and services to new populations with similar needs.

•          A domain-driven strategy takes as the starting point the needs, interests or priorities of the key stakeholders within its defined domain and seeks to address additional unmet needs within that domain.

It takes a great amount of thought, reflection and analysis to define the organizational core and identify the appropriate strategy driver. And once these two foundational elements are identified, there are a host of other considerations, questions and possibilities that will come into play. But if we begin from a point of clarity about who we are as an organization, we are more likely to avoid temptations and distractions that, while attractive in the short run, may in the long-run result in strategic confusion.

In the next essay, I will provide an example of a nonprofit using this approach to organizational strategy. The essay will highlight the process by which the organization developed its organizational core and identified its strategy driver.

Stay tuned!

See also:

Nonprofit Strategic Positioning: Decide Where to Be, Plan What to Do

Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability

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No instruction manual? Adopt a start-up attitude.

The online world is changing the way we live, work and engage with our communities. Nonprofits that raise more and leverage new heights in advocacy relate with their constituents through a variety of online channels in tandem, meeting each group where it already is: on the Internet.

Social Change Anytime Everywhere coauthors, Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward, establish beyond a doubt and with inspiring sector examples just how much a multichannel approach can help meet your goals.

If 78 percent of the U.S. population uses the Internet, nonprofit leaders must embrace not just one or two online channels but launch a coordinated effort that incorporates simultaneous online platforms, mobile devices and offline efforts.

One of the many stories Allyson and Amy highlight was the harrowing challenge faced by the National Wildlife Federation. The U.S. had just undergone the largest oil spill in its history on April 20, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

Organizing a multichannel fundraising and advocacy campaign

The Federation responded with a multichannel disaster response campaign. Its two goals were to organize a multichannel advocacy and fundraising campaign to protect the wildlife impacted by the spill and to channel the community’s concern for the oiled animals toward the Federation’s campaign actions to make a real impact.

To meet these goals, the Federation spread information by creating a microsite to share data and impact and a Flickr group to feature photos. It recruited volunteers to help monitor rescue efforts, asked for donated supplies and urged people to advocate for legislation where needed. It focused on fixing the immediate damage and helping people cope by using social media as an emotional support.

Then, the National Wildlife Federation transitioned to a long-term goal of restoration, which involved more advocacy efforts, mainly the RESTORE Act that directly allocated BP fines to efforts to fix the damage. Through multichannels, the Federation not only shared information, but also ways to help and it “even filed a Freedom of Information Act request to make sure the oiled wildlife totals were made public.”

Here are some ways the Federation used multichannels to meet their advocacy and fundraising goals:

1) Website–shared adult and child-friendly content and set up campaign action pages for advocacy. 

2) Facebook and Twitter—planned and adapted messages for each from the beginning and tested them along the way. The Federation shared a couple of links a day, thanked people who posted fundraising efforts, encouraged people to reshare information, and used these channels as stories of the day for reporters. They were sure to balance messaging between sharing valuable information and making “the ask.”

3) Flickr—posted photos and made uploading easy for community posts.

4) Email—sent updates and direct mail appeals to donate to a restricted fund specific to the oil disaster.

5) Causes—supporters started fundraising on a page the National Wildlife Federation set up on

6) Text-to-Give—set up a first-time text-to-give program and promoted it through the heightened media exposure and other channels (website, Twitter, Facebook).

7) Ads—secured donated ads and travel.

So what did all of these channel efforts amount to?

It was difficult to measure all the relief efforts due to the urgency of this disaster but the Federation did track how people were responding to its appeals using source codes in its emails. Additionally, they raised $120,000 from the fundraising effort on It mostly tracked the impact on the ground (number of volunteers trained, number of news reports, number of sea turtle nests saved, the RESTORE Act, etc.). Internally, the Federation learned to identify point people from all departments who could meet daily to share information, brief staff so it could talk with the media, and streamline its website processes to make the website the main source of updated information. More specifically, Federation efforts resulted in:

– 250 wildlife surveillance volunteers to monitor more than 2,500 miles of coastline.
– 400 volunteers helping with events that included restoring fragile nesting habitats.
– Generated media attention by showing reporters the spill impacts in remote areas.
– Relocated more than 250 sea turtle nests (each nest has about 100 eggs).
– Directly impacted the passage of the RESTORE Act in Congress, ensuring that BP fines go toward restoring the damaged habitat.

    Lessons learned

    “We had no instruction manual on the shelf called ‘What to do when an oil rig explodes in the Gulf.’ It was written page by page, on the fly in the weeks and months after,” said senior manager for online integration, Kristin Johnson. Identifying a point person from each department to focus on the campaign and communicate regularly was essential. Additionally, we learned that having a streamlined internal web process for updating the site regularly was critical. Otherwise, our other channels working in tandem with the site would have provided duplicative or conflicting information.

    Adopt a start-up attitude

    Kapin and Sample Ward encourage readers to adopt a start-up mentality when launching a multichannel effort. I asked the authors in our CausePlanet interview, “What are some of the behaviors you admire about startups that nonprofits should consider?” Kapin answered:

    Startups prefer to fail fast and iterate. This gives them an opportunity to experiment with new ideas that they think have potential. Plus there is a lot to be learned from failing: It can lead to much better products, programs and initiatives. But in order for nonprofits to adapt this mindset, they must stop being so risk-averse and develop a plan to communicate with their funders, donors and board about learning from failure. One of the organizations we work with–Ask Big Questions at Hillel International–lists specific questions they are asking themselves about their programs, which they share with their funders. They talk about what they have learned and the exciting journey ahead of them.

    See also:

    Networked Nonprofit

    Content Marketing for Nonprofits

    Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

    Twitter for Good


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    Get the most from your Mondays

    Many leaders are bogged down with managerial tasks that prevent them from pursuing true leadership. Three truths include: 1) Your job is to help your people be as successful as they can in order to produce results. 2) You carry great responsibility as a leader. 3) Leadership takes practice.

    Nine needs

    If you address the nine needs (four primary and five secondary) of your people, you will increase your leadership potential and the performance of your staff. The primary needs include care, mastery, recognition and purpose. The secondary needs are autonomy, growth, connection, play and model.

    Short on time?

    James Robbins, author of Nine Minutes on Monday, helps you address all these needs with a question for each. You can ask yourself these questions every Monday morning to set your leadership priorities.

    Join us!

    Join me for a lively discussion about how to transform your leadership with author James Robbins.

    Register now!

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    The winner of the Nook is…

    Congratulations to Kelly Headrick from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS-CAN) for winning the Nook! We asked CausePlanet readers to recommend a book they’ve read or suggest one they want to read in our Facebook contest for December’s Read a New Book month. Thank you for all your fantastic books! We’re looking forward to sharing your suggestions and highlights in the next few weeks. Kelly recommended Peter Drucker’s Managing the Nonprofit Organization. See more recommendations on our Facebook page.

    See more about ACS-CAN.

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    An exercise to evaluate grant proposals

    Recently, nonprofit consulting firm, Amanda Johnston Consulting, released their Grant Writer’s Toolkit, an educational resource that provides strategies, worksheets, and case studies for grant writers who are passionate about winning more funding for their organizations. Amanda Johnston is generously sharing excerpts from this resource with CausePlanet readers. This is the first: an exercise designed to help you evaluate your grant proposals. Find out more about her toolkit at Amanda Johnston Consulting.

    Use the scale below to score various components of your proposal narrative. This tool will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses in your application. Add the points from each section to see your total score.

    Use the following scale:

    1 Totally Agree

    2 Agree

    3 Neutral

    4 Disagree

    5 Totally Disagree


    ______ Proposal demonstrates a real need/problem.

    It does so by using data, case studies, interviews, focus group results, media attention, etc.

    ______ Proposal demonstrates timeliness and/or urgency.

    It does so by showing that the investment in this work is urgent, pressing; uses recent data, events, press attention.

    ______ Proposal provides clear and tangible outcomes.

    It does so by specifically explaining the objectives and desired outcomes for the project. Examples include improved client status, greater public awareness, new or improved systems, etc.

    ______ Proposal uses sound methodologies.

    It does so by using methods, approaches and strategies that are realistic, effective and outcome-oriented.

    ______ Proposal demonstrates organizational credibility.

    It does so by clearly explaining and demonstrating that the organization has strength in this type of work, name recognition, a track record of achievements, a unique position and/or providing letters of support.

    ______ Proposal clearly explains staffing for the project.

    It does so by appropriately allocating human resources to this project specifically, including internal staff, use of consultants, advisory committee, etc.

    ______ Proposal clearly explains participation for the project.

    It does so by identifying the stakeholders, partners, clients, beneficiaries and funder representatives who will participate in the planning, implementation and/or evaluation of the project.

    ______ Proposal clearly explains collaboration efforts for the projects.

    It does so by including new partnerships and an overall collaborative approach.

    ______ Proposal demonstrates creativity and uniqueness.

    It does so by using a concept that is innovative and not redundant with other projects.

    ______ Proposal demonstrates the projects’ multicultural/intergenerational efforts.

    It does so by providing a clear recognition of the value of diversity and use of multicultural and/or intergenerational approach.

    ______ Proposal has a solid evaluation plan.

    It does so by clearly explaining who, what, where, when, why and how the project will be evaluated.

    ______ Proposal demonstrates a project dissemination plan.

    It does so by explaining how the results of the project will be effectively disseminated – through peer review journals, press events, mailings, websites, etc.

    ______ Proposal demonstrates project replicability.

    It does so by clearly explaining how the proposed model can be replicated in other organizations.

    ______ Proposal demonstrates sustainability.

    It does so by clearly explaining how the project is sustainable, including what funding has been awarded and what further funding is being pursued.

    ______ Proposal explains in-kind contributions.

    It does so by clearly explaining what in-kind contributions have been awarded or what further in-kind contributions are being pursued. (funding, staffing, equipment, office space, etc.)

    ______ Proposal explains the organization’s use of technology.

    It does so by demonstrating the organization’s willingness to use the most up-to-date and emerging technologies.

    ______ Proposal demonstrates overall value of the project.

    It does so by explaining how the overall value of the project (relationship of benefits to cost) is high. The overhead rate is reasonable and competitive.

    ______ Proposal demonstrates how the project fits with the funder.

    It does so by clearly explaining how the project fits with funder priorities and parameters. It is based on research and pre-submission conversations with the funder.

    ______ Proposal demonstrates clarity, organization and completeness.

    It does so by ensuring the proposal content is well organized with a local progression of ideas. The writing style is concise and the funding guidelines are strictly followed.

    ______ Proposal is presented in a visually appealing manner.

    It does so by including graphics/charts/tables, exhibits, marketing materials. Proposal is neat and orderly.


    Total Score:


    Reviewer: ______________________

    Comments: _____________________

    © 2013, Amanda Johnston All Rights Reserved

    Excerpt from the Grant Writer’s Toolkit

    Available at:

    See also:

    Storytelling for Grantseekers: A Guide to Creative Nonprofit Fundraising

    The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants

    How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

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