Archive for December, 2015

How to make culture your nonprofit advantage

Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch is about the fragile balance between two forces on your organization—rational and emotional. Both are necessary to create a culture at every level of your organization.

Culture Eats authors Coffman and Sorensen argue that our strategies and tactics can either take a bite out of our culture or ignite the passion within it. The authors claim that as leaders, managers and employees, we must actively own the cultures to which we belong to draw out the best climate that is conducive to our business imperatives.

The reality about culture

Every organization has a culture, whether you cultivate it or not. The question is will you nurture your culture so it becomes your competitive advantage or choose to ignore it and hope for the best? Many nonprofits hope their noble missions will have a halo effect on their cultures.

The reality is nonprofits may need culture management more than most due to workplace challenges such as fewer resources for programming budgets, perks and pay. Coffman and Sorensen argue that culture is the X Factor when it comes to pushing your competitive advantage, delivering on your brand and ensuring strategies are fulfilled. The advantage nonprofits do have is plenty of purpose, which the authors explain is a critical ingredient for building a strong culture.

Culture questions asked and answered

We asked Curt Coffman and Kathie Sorensen about their unique idea of a Cultural P&L and about how leaders can have an impact on MicroCulture:

CausePlanet: Curt and Kathie, thank you for writing this book that focuses on culture as a means to success and competitive advantage. How did you come up with the idea of Cultural P&L (Profit and Loss)? What exactly does it involve?

Coffman and Sorensen: Every effective business leader knows the value of the P&L. Without it, you would be “guessing” about the outcomes that are critical to your business. The idea of a Cultural P&L is to provide the same kind of attentiveness for what has historically been hard to assess–the culture itself. Rather than seeing culture or even employee engagement as a once-a-year “outcome,” we see culture as evolving throughout the year and requiring a relentless interest to manage it effectively.

The three levels of culture, MacroCulture, MicroCulture and Bridge, are all a part of the P&L and help us understand the power of attraction within the culture and the degree of productive energy and connections around our line-of-sight. While the P&L will take the shape of the organization, the vigilance practiced helps ensure that the culture aligns with the brand and creates competitive advantage.

CausePlanet: You discuss at great length how the individual, not the leadership, in the MicroCulture is responsible for the culture. How can leaders then steer the culture in the right direction and motivate individuals to create a positive culture?

Coffman and Sorensen: Leaders can’t mandate culture, but they can encourage it through their active interest in their people’s perspectives, talents, ideas and needs. What leaders pay attention to creates focus in the larger organization. Asking about collaboration, partnership and new ideas means that leaders can bring about more of those strengths.

Great leaders ask about the elements of culture they want to see more of. The leader controls three things in making culture a competitive advantage: 1) brand, 2) future and 3) strategy. But, leaders can take a scalpel to culture if their role isn’t well defined.

MicroCulture is the most local team that shares similar goals and focus. The onus of culture is really activated or squashed at this level. The role of the micro level is to activate and sustain productive energy in one another. This is where execution, quality and true productivity lie.

If you’re tired of looking at financials, give the Cultural P&L a try. Coffman and Sorensen assure you that a consistent focus on culture will soon become your best insurance for a solid future.

See also:

Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch: The Secret of Extraordinary Results Igniting the Passion Within

Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity

Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia: Multigenerational Management Ideas That Are Changing the Way We Run Things

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Emotional versus rational appeals: Which one gives you asking rights?

We recently interviewed Tom Ralser about Asking Rights, which explores the differences between emotional and rational asks. Ralser explains that emotional asks have their place at the lower end of the gift pyramid but a rational approach is preferable for bigger solicitations.

Find out what Ralser has to say about emotional versus rational appeals: Tom Ralser on Emotional Versus Rational Appeals

“What really counts is what the people who actually write the checks think,” explains Ralser. More specifically, how do donor motivations inform nonprofit fundraising behavior? Ralser would say, “It’s all about the outcomes.”

We talked about outcomes in our interview: Tom Ralser on Outcomes-Based Approach

Tom Ralser asserts the rational appeal or the pursuit of earning the right to ask a donor for his investment is at the root of every successful request. Asking Rights explores how to successfully fund your nonprofit and do so with a greater focus on and understanding of the funder’s interests and motivations.

Learn more about Tom and the premise of the book: Tom Ralser on Asking Rights


See this book and other relevant titles we’ve summarized:

Asking Rights: Why Some Nonprofits Get Funded (and Some Don’t)

Fundraising the SMART Way™: Predictable, Consistent Income Growth for Your Charity + Website

Fundraising with Businesses: 40 New and Improved Strategies for Nonprofits

How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money

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Do you have a giver or taker leadership style? The surprising truth about both.

Last week I posed the question, “Ever wonder what makes some of your interactions successful and others failures?”

Give and Take author Adam Grant also wanted to know this answer so he spent 10 years of his life studying the professional choices of leaders from all walks of life.

What he found were givers, takers and matchers. Grant’s startling discovery is that givers dominate both the top and bottom of the success ladder. Grant explores compelling research that illustrates how—in spite of the risk—giving is more powerful than people believe. Grant’s book examines the special behavior that’s characteristic of the givers at the top.

Grant’s book begs the question

So why aren’t more of us giving, especially in the nonprofit world that focuses on giving to people outside the organization? Could nonprofits be even more successful if healthy giving translated everywhere, even inside the nonprofit?

Grant argues that many of us compartmentalize our giving outside of the workplace yet inside the workplace is exactly the territory where giving should expand. We know that much of our professional achievement depends on the success of our relationships with others. We must ask ourselves if we’re doing more taking than giving or if we’re satisfied with simply staying in the middle.

The fourth and often neglected trait in highly successful people

Adam Grant explains that highly successful people have three things in common: motivation, ability and opportunity. He argues that a fourth ingredient is often neglected. This characteristic involves how we approach our interactions with other people. “Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: Do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?”

Lead from the Heart author Mark C. Crowley conducted an interview with Adam Grant about Give and Take and kindly allowed us to share an excerpt with you.

Mark Crowley: If we know giving ensures succeeding, why don’t more people lead this way?

Adam Grant: Part of the reason I wrote this book is that I was raised by extremely generous parents and came to take giving for granted. But then I got into the workplace and was struck by how many people were paranoid and felt like everyone was a taker and out to get them. Their belief was, “If I don’t put myself first, no one will.”

According to Stanford psychologist Dale Miller, when people anticipate self-interested behavior, they believe they’ll be exploited if they operate like givers. So they conclude that “pursuing a competitive orientation is a rational and appropriate thing to do.” There’s also great popularity in books like Robert Green’s The 48 Laws of Power and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Books like these demonstrate we don’t see much room for giver values in our professional lives.

And, finally, when you look at core values and world-views, oftentimes the simpler view is the easier one to hold on to. There are people who believe giving is good and overlook its dark side; and there are people who believe giving is foolish and a great way to be exploited and overlook the upside. Maybe the reason we need to convince more leaders to be givers is because, of course, it’s both.

Mark Crowley: Why does it always seem as though takers find success despite their self-serving practices?

Adam Grant: Let me be clear that givers, takers, and matchers all can—and do—achieve success. But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: It spreads and cascades. When takers win, there’s usually someone else that loses. Research shows that people tend to envy takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. As the venture capitalist Randy Komisar remarked, “It’s easier to win if everybody wants you to win. If you don’t make enemies out there, it’s easier to succeed.”

Jonas Salk, who during a press conference announcing the cure for polio, famously failed to acknowledge any of the several scientists who greatly contributed to the breakthrough. Despite Salk’s long-enduring fame, he never went on to win a Nobel Prize, nor was he elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences—recognition that every prominent polio researcher later earned. For being a taker, and for not giving well-deserved credit to people who had helped him, Salk was snubbed by his peers. Such is the karma of takers.

Watch for my next post when we’ll explore Grant’s suggestions for modeling what the best givers do to succeed rather than burn out.

See this book and other relevant titles we’ve summarized:

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

12: The Elements of Great Managing

It’s Not Just Who You Know: Transform Your Life (and Your Organization) by Turning Colleagues and Contacts Into Lasting, Genuine Relationships

Nine Minutes on Monday: The Quick and Easy Way to Go from Manager to Leader

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