Be a Visionary

Do you avoid trying something new because it takes time? Time you can’t spare?

There’s a way to make big changes, with big dividends, without investing any more of your time.


The trick is to switch your thinking from mission to vision. They are two different views or attitudes. You’ll be amazed at the difference this mental shift will make.

Vision is what attracts people to your cause. As Simon Sinek says in his famous TED Talk, “Start with Why.” When people hear WHY you are doing what you’re doing they care.

Caring leads to donating, joining, volunteering and advocating.

Chances are you have been talking about WHAT you do. I don’t blame you, what you do is important, but it’s not what attracts followers.

Think of religious leaders or politicians. They paint the big picture. Sinek points out that Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream.” He didn’t say, I have a plan.

How do you make the switch?

First, make sure you are clear on your vision. What is it your organization exists to do or change? How would the world look if you succeeded?

Then talk about that. Stay away from the details – the what and how – until your listener shares your vision and is eager to find out how to be part of your mission.

You’re the visionary, they’re the missionaries.

You inspire, they follow.

Try leading with your vision at your next networking event. Or even your next board or staff meeting. This new practice will change the conversation.

Your vision is your dream. Make it come true by sharing it with more and more people. Together you will make it happen, you will be a visionary.

Open Up!

You are playing a numbers game. You need more – more advocates, more volunteers, more donors. The challenge is to make sure the numbers keeps going up.

That’s why you need to open the doors.

Yes, open up and invite people in. Give a tour. Make it easy for people to find you. Be welcoming.

Start with the tour. Invite people to come see your work. Even if it’s not very pretty, you can walk them through, give a dynamic presentation and answer questions. It’s a sure way to build a list of well-informed people.

Before they come, walk outside. Take at look at the actual door. Imagine you are coming for the first time. Is your office easy to find? Is it welcoming?

In addition to literally opening doors, look for other ways people might “meet” your organization.

Is your website friendly and easy to navigate?

Are your social media posts frequent, engaging and actionable?

What happens when you meet someone through networking or they find you online?

Put a plan in place so that each new contact receives a friendly greeting, an invitation to a tour and a chance to keep the conversation going.

Open Up! Show your pride while you’re creating smart, informed advocates.


Celebrate Victories

It’s ok to have fun. Really. It makes you happier and more productive. A few minutes a day spent celebrating the little victories may pay off in big ways.

So why not create some fun?

Just like gathering miracles, we tend to wait for something big to happen or for the calendar to tell us it’s time for a party. But celebrating isn’t just about cake or annual events. Celebrate victories.

The reasons to celebrate are already there. You’re doing great work! You’re providing services, attracting donors, advocating for your clients, receiving grants, fulfilling dreams and building a fabulous resume.

How can you keep from singing?

Here are 5 feel good actions that will make your day:

  1. Celebrate donors: Treat a $10 gift like you do a $10,000 donation. You never know…
  2. Honor partners: Make employees, volunteers and clients feel special. Celebrate milestones and success. It’s a win-win, you feel good, they feel even better.
  3. Break bread: Never Eat Alone is the title of a book and good advice. You’re going to eat anyway, do it with someone else and make it special.
  4. Be joyful: It might sound too simple, but your attitude influences everyone around you. Be the one who makes everyone feel good about your vision and the work.
  5. Brag: Use social media to spread the word. You deserve an ego boost and so do all those who make your work possible.

When you’re on the look-out you’ll see victory everywhere!

Celebrate victories, even the little ones. You may be overlooking the small accomplishments while you’re waiting for the big one. Set small goals that are easy to reach, then make some noise. Have a party just because it feels good.

Gather Miracles

Several years ago I heard a nonprofit Executive Director (before they became CEOs) talk about gathering miracles. I had already learned how important storytelling is to success, but miracles?

I wanted to know more.

He told us how each employee in their child welfare organization reported his or her Miracle of the Month. Of course, I wondered, “How could they have so many miracles.”

He went on to explain that wondrous things happen all the time. But we overlook them. They aren’t important enough. Or they are hard to quantify. Maybe they are too small for most people to notice.

But his employees reported magical stories. Most often they were little things, maybe something a child said. Or a drawing. Or the employee’s successful placement. Things that might feel ordinary to you but are actually quite extraordinary.

I realized this concept – collecting miracles – wasn’t limited to needy children or even to social service. Every organization exists to make the world a better place and exceeds in doing that in some small way, day in an day out.

When you and your employees are looking for miracles, you will find them. And when you find them, you can share them.

You should share them.

Those everyday miracles are the very reason people care about you and your work. They are the reason they volunteer, advocate and donate.

Gather miracles.Everyday your work creates stories of success. Pay attention to them so you can share them. They are your single greatest marketing tool. Turn them into posts. Share them at events. Report your Miracle of the Month. That’s a great way to get started.

Attracting Millennials

Surprise! Young people like me.

Really, they do.

When I was a 20 something the saying was, “Never trust anyone over 30.”

Today’s young adults not only trust us, they seek us out. I’ve found again and again that they want to learn from me and other people like me (well past 30).

I love it! They have energy, dreams and skills we won’t live long enough to master.

Here are my quick tips for attracting millennials to your board, staff or volunteer opportunities.

  1. Offer connections. The younger adults I meet through Toastmasters, One Million Cups or my work are eager to make connections. Share your contacts with them.
  1. Listen. This is true for all people but actively listening to someone younger or less advanced than you makes them feel good. Honor their opinions before you give advice.
  1. Ask for advice. When it comes to technology we know to turn to a younger generation. But I also turn to my children and my young adults friends for information on a wide variety of topics.
  1. Be a mentor. Whether it’s formal or informal, offer advice and guidance on career matters. I find young adults eager to learn and willing to listen.

I think you’ll find, like I have, that connecting with people younger than you are is fun, inspiring and useful. And I love that they want to hear what I have to say!

Top Tips for Nonprofits 2018

How will you make 2018 your best year?

Here are 5 tips that will get you started. Each one is easy and free so no excuses! You’ll see quick results and that feels good. but, maybe even more importantly, they will get you and everyone else thinking creatively.

Let’s get started:

  1. Gather miracles. Everyday your work creates stories of success. Pay attention to them so you can share them. They are your single greatest marketing tool. Turn them into posts. Share them at events. One organization asks each employee to report their Miracle of the Month. That’s a great way to get started.
  1. Celebrate little victories. You may be overlooking the small accomplishments while you’re waiting for the big one. Treat each $10 donor like they gave $1000. Honor hard work. Set small goals that are easy to reach, then make some noise. Have a party just because it feels good.
  1. Create a dream team. Look around at all the great people who share your vision. Choose a few – staff, board members, volunteers, community leaders or donors – to join you on a team. Set a lofty goal and start figuring out how to achieve it. It may be your 2020 plan. Or the beginning of a new collaborative project.
  1. Open your doors. Invite people to learn about your work and to see it in action. Regularly scheduled tours are a wonderful way to introduce more and more people to your organization. Even if there isn’t much to see, you can share your story in a way that will make them want to know you better. No need to ask for anything but listen carefully to what they offer.
  1. Be a visionary. Make it your personal challenge to be the one who looks ahead and keeps the dream in mind. This mental shift will impact everything you do. Use this to help you stay focused: there are visionaries and there are missionaries. They are both good but without the vision there is no mission. Focus on what could be. You are the visionary!

So there they are, Top Tips for Nonprofits 2018, 5 easy and free tips to give you your best year ever.



Year End Giving #2

A dime doesn’t cut it anymore. How do you get your share of year-end giving?

Maximize your gifts by sharing your little victories.

Most organizations wait for the big story but every little victory, every move towards your vision, should be shared. When you create a culture of gathering and sharing little miracles you build the support of many.

Some of them will give you a thousand. Share that miracle.

Diversify Your Organization

We’ve been talking about diversity for a long time. Yet nonprofit leadership isn’t very diverse.

It’s time to get it right. Diversify your organization.

I’d like to think that nonprofits would be ahead of the curve on this issue but studies show otherwise.

…42 percent of the organizations we surveyed are led by female executive directors, 87 percent of all executive directors or presidents were white, and there was only minimal representation of African Americans (6 percent), Asian Americans (3 percent), and Hispanics (4 percent) in those positions.

Our findings, The State of Diversity in Nonprofit and Foundation Leadership, are similar to those presented in a number of recent studies. A 2015 study by Community Wealth Partners, for example, found that only 8 percent of nonprofit executive directors were people of color, while a 2013 study conducted by D5found that 92 percent of foundation executive directors were white. Philanthropy News Digest, The Diversity Gap in the Nonprofit Sector, Susan Medina  June 14, 2017

What you can do now

  1. Surround yourself with the widest range of ages, genders, races and life experiences. Visionary leadership calls for a broad perspective.
  1. Nonprofits are often top-heavy. There’s the Director (or CEO or Founder) and there’s everybody else. Instead, create a culture of shared leadership. Offer opportunities and encourage others to take the lead on projects.
  1. Be clear about the vision and values of your organization. Recruit and nurture people who share them. When a shared vision is the motivating factor in recruitment your organization will diversify naturally.

Diversify your organization. It’s not just about reporting numbers. Diversity will enhance the impact of your organization while it strengthens your leadership skills.

A New Way to Work

As I explore the challenges and opportunities you have I see a bright future. Despite any political or economic factors there is an unprecedented excitement in the nonprofit community.

What follows is a series of thoughts and suggestions on how we might proceed. It is not a checklist to be done in a week or a month, but an ongoing process and an awareness of what is possible and how you might approach it.

It is a broad view of nonprofit sector health and the potential for greatest impact. It encompasses marketing, fundraising and, mostly, strong visible leadership.

It’s a new way to work…

  1. Vision First. Before the work, there’s the dream. Focusing on the end result drives your work and inspires others to follow.
  1. Collaborate. Others share your vision. Make them your partners, together you are stronger.
  1. Be Nimble. Be ready to adapt and change. Use new tools that make you flexible, faster and smarter.
  1. Tell Your Story. Your goal is to engage more people, nothing does it better than a good story.
  1. Technology is a Tool. We are done expecting miracles from social media, it’s time to use technology as a tool.
  1. Build Teams. You gain by creating teams that utilize and develop everyone’s talents.
  1. Advocate and Serve. It takes both to impact change. They complement each other and strengthen your outcomes.
  1. Open Up. Transparency is expected now, you need to be open, honest and accessible.
  1. Be a Social Entrepreneur. Raising more money may require reaching beyond the traditional, be ready for something new.
  1. Diversify. We still haven’t gotten it right. Create a culture where all views are heard and respected.

I explore each of these further, just follow the links. This may not be the definitive lists but it reflects what I’ve seen and heard. Like you, I’m always discovering and learning so the list will change. For now, I think an awareness of these 10 issues will go a long way to growing your organization.

A new way to work.

Social Enterprise

What happened to the simple choice between for-profit and non-profit?

There are many more options now and lots of new terminology: social enterprise, social innovation, social entrepreneurship, for benefit, social venture.

Once upon a time you existed for social good or you existed to make money. It’s not so clear anymore.

Visionary nonprofit leaders are paying attention to the blurring lines (


even if the terminology remains fuzzy).

A History of Social Enterprise

Way back in 1917 Girl Scouts started selling cookies. Pretty soon they were earning a lot more than was needed for a camping trip.

On the other side of the equation, the actor Paul Newman cre


ated Newman’s Own products and donated all after-tax proceeds to charities including his own Hole in the Wall Camp (now SeriousFun Children’s Network).

Two different approaches – one from a nonprofit, one from a for-profit – both designed to raise money for children’s programs.

In recent years both approaches have become popular. Regardless of tax status, many organizations exist for social good.

Your Challenge

What’s different now is the sense that traditional funding sources may be drying up. To make up for shortfalls you need to take an entrepreneur’s view of making money.

The most important consideration is keeping the venture aligned with. Your social enterprise will take a lot of effort – effort that should not divert your attention from the mission.

Girl Scouts started out baking the cookies they sold. They were learning cooking skills and business skills. Although they don’t make the millions of boxes sold every year now, they do learn how to sell and how to manage money.

If you haven’t begun to explore the possibility of creating a product or service that produces income, now is the time.