Get big on bartering
While Zilch author, Nancy Lubin admits early on that nonprofits are far from perfect, there is value for leaders of all kinds in looking at the cost-saving best practices in nonprofit management. Unlike big business, Lubin claims that nonprofits know how to grow through alliances versus acquisition; position passionate people to blaze their own trails, rather than promote solely on experience; and create brands through simple, consistent and relevant strategies, versus spending voluminous budgets on research and focus groups.
Lubin interviewed dozens of successful nonprofit leaders and drew eleven common themes from those organizations that you can model in your own organizations. Some of the interviewees include Charles Best from Donors Choose, Wendy Kopp from Teach for America, Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia, Greg Baldwin from VolunteerMatch, John Lilly from Mozilla, Zainab Salbi from Women for Women International. One of her themes is big on bartering. Here’s more from Lubin:
Do more by bartering with zero. According to Lubin, bartering is about maximizing the human capability for flexibility, creativity and trust. Consequently, it involves more communication than a linear transaction. However, it strengthens relationships between people, organizations and brands. Surpluses, for example, are perfect bartering material. Bartering can provide a competitive edge as well as deepen the relationships organizations have become very dependent upon over the years. The exchanges don’t have to start big—office supplies or software advice can be the beginning and move on toward trading promotion on websites and so on. Bartering doesn’t have to be an even exchange of similar services either, but it does require that each party clearly define partnership, what will be exchanged and how.
First, ask for the impossible. DonorsChoose.org, for example, couldn’t afford to pay the large expense of recoding their website, so CEO Charles Best called Yahoo! and asked them if they could donate some engineers. Yahoo! agreed, sending six engineers who took a six-month sabbatical to reconfigure the site. In exchange, Yahoo! was able to give their engineers a much needed boost of inspiration and a project that would build teamwork and fulfillment among the visiting programmers.
Beyond products and services: think of your people as resources to barter. Barter your technology guru for their donor services expert. You can also trade products for people’s time or services for consulting work. Consider loaning an expert on your staff to leverage a peer organization’s expert in a different area so both of you can gather some specific training your team might temporarily be lacking. Do you have extra space? Is there a season when someone on staff is idle? Visit barter exchanges like ITEX and U-Exchange.com.
Nonprofits who have experienced long-term success with bartering follow these six “rules”:
Identify your core competencies (human or material).
Identify your core incompetencies (products, services or knowledge).
Search for matches. (Start by looking in your office complex or neighborhood.
Formalize the barter arrangement. (Spell out and agree to terms.)
Monitor progress. (Appoint someone to manage expectations.)
Make adjustments. (Grow the partnership if it makes sense or end amicably when the need is fulfilled.)