Nonprofit New Year’s Resolutions – What is Holding You Back?

We are already a week into the New Year and I cannot help but wonder how many personal resolutions have already been disregarded, if not outright discarded, or as I prefer frame it – tweaked into something more … manageable.  We all have big dreams on January 1, but to paraphrase Ms. Grant, nothing short of payment in perspiration is going to turn intention into reality.  Let’s just face it, evidence suggests that our resolutions are more likely to fall by the wayside than be attained.  Nothing horrible will happen when day #364 arrives and you never did register for that marathon or crack that volume of Proust, but when your organization is the one in desperate need of a “lifestyle change” how do you ensure that the change sticks?

There are at least three major problem areas nonprofits may need to reevaluate for 2013:


This year will be even more challenging on the funding front for any nonprofit that hopes spending cuts and words of austerity were just a passing storm.  This is an excellent opportunity to directly confront departmental or organizational fears that keep you hanging on to events that are no longer profitable and deferring serious talks about diversifying methods of giving and ditching your two-decade-old donor profile.  Be creative.  Be bold. The time for wishing things were different is over – 2013 is the year to revamp and revitalize your fundraising strategy and Beth Kanter has an excellent post on how to start thinking about doing just that.



The ability to meaningfully communicate why your nonprofit does what it does uniquely and effectively is key to successful messaging.  Solid content and consistent promotion of your organization indicates a good level of fitness, but engagement is what will take you to the next level.  The goal of storytelling, posting, and other social media activities is to compel your audience to action. This requires genuine engagement. Who are you talking to online?

I agree with Debra Askanase – 2013 is going to take social media to a whole new level in nonprofit communication, marketing, and even operations. If you are not doing more than dabbling in it (as in the requisite accounts and an intern as sole content curator/poster) you have whip your social media muscles into shape! Check out Debra’s post on nonprofit technology for plenty of workout material.


Making it Happen.

You could have the most knowledgeable staff working for the most dynamic Executive Director but your nonprofit is going to keep spinning its wheels if the Board is more impediment than inspiration. Board performance is a sensitive issue, but in this challenging climate it is one that can no longer be ignored with a “boards will be boards” attitude.  Challenge your board to explore their capability as a group and move beyond what can be accomplished around the big table to how they can actively help your nonprofit get closer to your organizational vision by December 31.   A helpful tool to begin this conversation is Elephants in the Boardroom: A Framework for Discussing Board Effectiveness Issues from the Fieldstone Alliance.


What is your nonprofit-related New Year’s resolution? 

Nonprofits: Yes to Facebook & Twitter, Blogging…Not so Much

The latest snapshot of nonprofit social media use and strategy comes from a recently released report from Sage, a company specializing in software solutions for business and nonprofits.  According to first quarter data from their Nonprofit Insights 2012 survey, the majority of nonprofit organizations used social media (84 percent) and reported that that it was important to their organization’s overall mission (75 percent), with 46 percent indicating satisfaction with their social media outcomes.

Other key findings include,

  • The top 3 social media sites among those surveyed were Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
  • Just over 1/3 (35 percent) of survey participants used a tool  to manage their multiple social media accounts
  • 71 percent of the nonprofits surveyed indicated that public relations or creating “buzz” was their primary reason for using social media
  • Determination  of social media “success” was often through the number of  social media clicks, friends or followers (reported by 61 percent of participating nonprofits), although 17 percent link it to the amount of  dollars raised
  • Less than 1/3 (29 percent) of nonprofits blog

Download the report Sage Nonprofit Insights, Q1 2012 Social Media Study for additional survey data as well as social media tips for nonprofits.

The Serious Business of Succession Planning

Is your nonprofit ready if your Executive Director gave their notice tomorrow?  Has the executive team and board engaged in serious conversations about succession planning and the long and shorter term issues related to a change of leadership?  How would your nonprofit manage an unplanned, unforseen change at the highest level?

Nonprofit boards and executives should not shy away from creating a succession strategy for fear of personal affronts or hurt feelings – the importance of this kind of planning to the organization’s strategic plan cannot be understated.  In turn, succession planning should never be used as a veiled threat or first mentioned during a power struggle between the board and director. It is not personal or petty; rather it is simply part of good system maintenance to insure the uninterrupted performance of your service or advocacy organization.

A recent study out of Wichita State University Center for Community Support and Research indicates that the majority of nonprofits (72 percent) in that region had executive leadership at or close to retirement age. Many also required assistance in the areas of emergency back-up planning, succession policy and planned departures, as well as general leadership development and talent management.   Approximately 33 percent had used an interim director at some point, with half of those agencies reporting said director was selected from within the organization.

A note to consultants – the Wichita study found that just under half (46 percent) of the responding agencies would be likely to pay for outside help in the areas of succession planning and transition assistance.  Are you offering these services to your clients?

The Social Media Backlash – Will You Make the Cut?

In the post What Will You Do About The Age Of Anti-Social Media? at Social Media Explorer, Ilana Rabinowitz writes about the coming backlash against social media evidenced by the growing push back against digital information overload. The trend has begun; people are recognizing the drawbacks to instantaneous and constant connectivity and are turning off (or tuning out) their smartphones during dinner, family outings, even (gasp!) for the entire weekend.

Don’t get me wrong – social media is here to stay – but a pendulum swing back to a more balanced approach to digital connectivity may be underway.

If consumers are becoming more selective about how they spend their online time and your nonprofit uses digital media for the majority of your marketing, messaging and mobilization you better learn to stand out amongst the crowd.  To do so, as Ms. Rabinowitz points out, is to consistently offer stellar content.  The importance of quality content is not a new idea – but it is a point worth repeating as it is often lost, or at least misplaced,  in the fast-moving Twit-book-dIn realm and the race for fans, followers and, yes, those Likes.

Curious about the state of your content?

  • Does your organization’s web page provide timely information about key issues and advocacy opportunities relevant to your mission, the population you serve and the community?
  • Do you have a blog where in-house and guest bloggers share their stories, insights and inspiration with the public?
  • Do you only ASK and never show? Do you post as many slide-shows, videos and success stories as asks for sponsorships, donations or other solicitations?

Already practicing the creation and dissemination of quality content – kudos! How do you keep your social media content fresh, unique and interesting?