Nonprofit Champions in the News

Teaching kids charity? Skip the soup kitchen trip

It’s that time of year again.  Many people decide they want to do something for others as the holidays roll around.  And they want their children to be involved.  This CBS story poo-poos the idea of taking your kids to the soup kitchen or other places where they are more a hindrance than a help.  

mesch_debra-photoTalking to children about giving is…an extremely effective way to encourage philanthropy at a young age, according to a new study by the United Nations Foundation and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Debra Mesch, director of the institute, said the research showed that talking to children about giving increased by 20 percent the likelihood that children would give. That held true across race, gender, age and more.

How this impacts you

Start now to make a plan to involve families in your organization’s work.  You are bound to get requests so rather than scrambling at the last minute, think of meaningful activities that will benefit your Mission.  While you are helping to create the next generation of philanthropists you’ll be making the parents happy!

Stop Asking for Money

catiemarronJust a quick post today prompted by an interview in Sunday’s New York Times.

Catie Marron is co-chair of the High Line in New York (I’ll write more about that great nonprofit another day) and past chair of the New York Public Library.  In other words, she’s raised millions of dollars.  Make that a billion – she oversaw a $1.2 billion capital campaign for the Library!  So much for the gloom and doom about the future of libraries.

Anyway, what really caught my attention was a comment by her:

“You don’t go out and ask people for money.  Instead, you create a place where they want to be involved.”

Excellent advice!  Catie attributes it to Andrew Heiskell (former CEO of Time).  It’s true, if you are creating a great organization, TELLING YOUR STORY and inspiring people to care, you don’t have to ask.  You will attract the people you need and want – as donors, leaders and evangelists.

Have you read our free ebook? Learn to tell your story and involve others. Your Million Dollar Story is available now with your subscription to Nonprofit Champion!redarrow2

Merle Benny is known as the Mentor of smart, bold Nonprofit Leaders, ready to change the world. She is a founder of Nonprofit Champion, a company committed to the growth and empowerment of nonprofit leaders around the globe by sharing high-level thoughtful branding and growth strategies – while supporting their work and values to create sustainable success.

After 20 years in a successful corporate career developing technology companies, Merle followed her passion and turned her talents to the nonprofits she loved.  Joining years of nonprofit board leadership with marketing expertise, business savvy with a philanthropic heart, Merle empowers highly successful nonprofit leaders.  

10 Steps to…Be a Nonprofit Champion

NPCMedalThe world’s counting on you!  You’ve already proven yourself by stepping up and choosing to lead a nonprofit organization. You’ve got a clear vision and you’re making the world a better place. But sometimes being the quiet do-gooder isn’t enough.  It’s not enough for you and it’s not enough for your organization. Time for greatness!

I’ve seen organizations soar (taking their leaders with them) and have seen many more limp along.  I’ve learned a lot by observing and I want to share it with you – so you can be among the champions!

Let’s start our countdown:
10. Stardom comes from bold action.  Nonprofits tend to play it safe.  They do what is proven, what everyone else does, what they’ve done since 1942. Time for a new approach!

9.  Dream – be the visionary leader.  Before you can get others to care enough to promote you and your organization to stardom, you need a dream they can share.  This is your vision – it’s a reach, it  excites you and it’s easy for others to understand and care about.

8.  Maximize who you have.  At the very least you have a Board of Trustees.  Mobilize them.  They joined for a reason, get them turned on again and working with you.  Enlist volunteers and staff to use their talents to the fullest, some people are just waiting to be asked!

7. Open the door.  The biggest obstacle to nonprofit growth (and donations) is not expanding your Network.  You decide how people will enter – invite them to an introductory Story Hour or  schedule a private meeting. Just be sure that it is easy for everyone to learn about you and to get involved.

6. Make room for fame.   Clear out tasks that are time consuming, can be done by someone else (how about one of those new contacts!) or unnecessary.  You want to open up space so you can take big, bolder steps.

5.  Get out more.   It’s easy to sit at your desk and think about what should happen.  You need to connect with new people everyday. There are countless people who will become part of your team if you give them the opportunity.

4. Stay open and responsive.   As you connect to more and more people, opportunities will come your way. Listen carefully. Be ready!

3. Be online.   Build an online presence.  There are many tools and choices – email, blogs, postings, tweets – choose one that works best for you and get started.

2. Act like a star.   Get comfortable with speaking and writing so you can share your dream whenever opportunity presents itself.  Dress the part.

1. Take big steps.  The world is waiting.  Grab the attention of busy, smart, successful people.  Seek out big ideas.  Don’t reject anything that is legal and gets you closer to your Vision!

You’re all set – go for it!  And share your success stories with us so we can help more Nonprofit Champions.

Dowload your FREE 10 Steps to Nonprofit Champion Poster.


Merle Benny is known as the Mentor of smart, bold Nonprofit Leaders, ready to change the world. She is the founder and president of Nonprofit Champion, a company committed to the growth and empowerment of nonprofit executive directors and board leaders around the globe by sharing high-level thoughtful marketing and growth strategies – while supporting their work and values to create sustainable success.
After 20 years in a successful corporate career developing technology companies, Merle followed her passion and turned her talents to the nonprofits she loved.  Joining years of nonprofit board leadership with marketing expertise, business savvy with a philanthropic heart, Merle empowers highly successful nonprofit leaders.

Monday Morning Kick-Off

Football.  We are in New Jersey, soon to be the first northern host of the Super Bowl.  So there’s lots of football buzz here despite the fact our two Jersey-based teams (yes, they are called New York) don’t seem to be headed for the big game.

football-clip-art-5Sometimes when I see a football player run the length of the field with no one touching him, I can’t believe it.  I start my rant:  

“A team of giant men, paid millions of dollars with nothing else to do but stop one man from running to the goal post.  Where are they?  What are they doing while their opponent runs 80 yards for a touchdown?”

So, now I’m coming back around to nonprofits.  I see organizations do the same darn thing.  They take their eyes off the ball, forget what their job is and totally mess up.  They chase money rather than Vision.  They create limitations instead of seeking innovation.  They shut out people instead of inviting them in.  They focus on numbers instead of Mission.

Gather your team and remind them that there is one job.  One dream.  One goal.  And together you can do it.

Champion Word of the Week

CHAMPION: a defender, supporter, hero, remarkable person

You!  You are the champion of your organization.  Use the opportunities you have – and create your own – to share your passion for your Vision. A strong nonprofit leader can single handedly ignite a cause and build the support for a healthy, vibrant organization. Use your talents, skills, experience and passion to make your organization great. 

P.S.  I make it easy for you with Ten Steps to Be a Nonprofit Champion, subscribe now so you recieve it on Tuesday.

Plus when you subscribe I’ll send you my new ebook: Your Million Dollar Story
Sign up now!

Nonprofit Champions in the News

Good news on corporate giving!  The results of a study released this week* show that international corporate giving is up this year and will continue to rise next year.

park nylifeBut most news stories related to philantrophy are talking about giving that benefits both the nonprofit and the corporation.  Christine Park**, president of the New York Life Foundation, makes the logical connection between the work of New York Life – dealing with families in times of grief – and the work of grief organizations, particularly those working with grieving children.  She believes it benefits her corporation, the nonprofits they support, and the community at large when they step-up and bring this under-served need to the attention of the public.

brandt forbesAnother article, by George Brandt of Forbes***, The Difference Between Value-Creating Corporate Giving And Counterproductive Distractions, makes the case that not all corporate giving is good.  “Checkbook Philanthropy” seems to be going away. The people I talked to…represented corporations far less interested in writing unrestricted checks than in leveraging their talent, technology, and infrastructure to help those in need. This makes total sense. There’s no synergy in cash.”

When corporations give from their own strengths everyone wins.  Good, good and good, as George says: Good for others, Good for me, Good at it.

conant campbellsAnd finally in an article from Doug Conant****, former Campbell Soup CEO,We often measure the impact of corporate philanthropy by counting the number of individuals who are helped by a particular program. In my experience, however, philanthropy can also help companies reduce business risk, open up new markets, engage employees, build the brand, reduce costs, advance technology, and deliver competitive returns.”

While corporations are scouting like-minded nonprofits, it is to your advantage to spend time discovering which corporations share your Vision.  They are potential partners.  Together you can discover how they will contribute to your dream, while meeting their own needs.

 Stories in the news

*Giving Beyond Borders

**Creating Enduring Value at a Corporate Foundation: Bridging the Gap Between Brand and Cause

***The Difference Between Value-Creating Corporate Giving And Counterproductive Distractions

 ****Why philanthropy is R&D for business

Wake Up Call

While not everyone’s a morning person, people do like a good, fulfilling breakfast. It never ceases to amaze what a powerful and effective tool a well planned Breakfast Fundraiser or Workshop can be.

You’d have to get up pretty early to do it better than Nonprofit Champion!

wake up


Is Your Vision a Donor Magnet?

Your Vision is bigger, even loftier, than a mission statement. It’s your DREAM. It’s the ideal that you work towards bit by bit every day. You started out with a very clear vision – you could imagine a better world (or your community) because of your work.  But the everyday challenges of running an organization may have caused you to lose sight of your dream.

The very same Vision that once had you ready to conquer the world may have faded.

Time to bring that Vision back into focus. Imagine having 100s or even 1000s sharing a passion for your Vision, working together to make it happen.

  • Your organization  would be growing  
  • You be serving more clients or greeting more guests
  • You’d have a larger budget and a highly qualified staff
  • The world be safer, happier or better educated  
  • You might solve the unsolvable problem

The Vision is the Magnet
It’s the magic of your Vision that will inspire passion and dedication. The mission and goals are seldom the attraction.  A clear, bold Vision is very appealing – it attracts interest, friends and donations.

Five Quick Vision Boosters

  1. Keep your Vision front and center.
  2. Review it to see if it needs to be bolder or more specific.
  3. Turn it into a short, bold statement that turns heads.
  4. Spread it every way you can, put it in writing, state it publicly – give it life.
  5. Share it with everyone you know and encourage others to share it.
  6. Come back to it every time you make a decision or choice that will impact your organization.  Ask yourself, “will this bring us closer to our vision?”
  7. Turn your vision into action by developing a mission statement that states what you are doing to reach your Vision and then align your goals so you, and everyone else, is reaching for the dream.

Your organization can be growing everyday through your own efforts just by sharpening your focus and sharing your Vision.

Want to Change the World? You’re Not Alone

Expanding your Vision is a bold move.  It’s not for everyone but right now organizations are changing the world by making bold choices.  Nonprofits that have successfully provided programs and services – meals, housing, education – are facing the fact that it often isn’t enough. 


To become a High-Impact or Social Change organzation you have to adust your thinking.  Let’s say you’re providing shelter when you really believe there shouldn’t be homeless families.  Or you offer food when the very idea of children going hungry seems wrong.  Are you ready to take on the bigger challenge and make change?

Maurice Lim Miller did.  For 22 years he led Asian Neighborhood Design, a San Francisco noprofit that offered affordable housing, job training and counseling.  It was successful by everyone’s measure but his own; President Clinton invited him to sit in his box at the 1999 State of the Union address.  But Miller rarely saw anyone leave poverty behind; they had begun to provide services to the adult children of former clients.

Maurice knew immigrant families, like his own, had left poverty for good.  His new Vision was to provide a similar path out of poverty for all poor families in San Francisco and beyond.  In creating Family Independence Initiative, he turned the whole model upside down and is now measuring (and rewarding) long term independence instead of number of families served.

You can’t take on these issues alone.  To be an advocate for the people you serve and to impact real change you need the cooperation of your organization, your board, your community and your funders.

Making the leap from service provider to changemaker requires an adjustment in your approach.  As a service provider you get to brag about the 1000 people you sheltered (even is the number of homeless families is increaing).  As a changemaker you measure success by a decrease in homelessness.  We’re talking about forever changing our world!

What the Changemakers have in Common
Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High Impact Nonprofits (updated in 2012) outlines what organizations like Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity and Share Our Strength have in common.  These are nonprofits working for long term societal change.  Some started with big bold plans; others have identified the larger need and changed the way they work to address it.

The Six Practices these organizations share are:

  1. A combination of programs and advocacy.  Just providing programs is not enough; you need to be an agent of change by advocating for it.
  2. Strong partnerships with corporations and others who have a self-interest in the outcome. 
  3. The ability to create evangelists.  Take on the role of movement builders by emotionally inspiring others to care and act. 
  4. Nonprofits networks that freely share information so that they all gain.
  5. Nimble enough to adapt, both creatively and systematically, to allow for innovation.
  6. No egomaniacs.  Leadership is shared, inside and outside the organization, for the greatest impact.

Why now?
I’ve worked with homeless families for many years.  Services to support the homeless grew rapidly in the 1980s when it seemed like a growing, but solvable, social problem.  Twenty five years later there are many more services and billions being spent but poverty and homelessness have only increased. 

You might make a similar case for urban blight, low wages, failing students or any number of other problems that so many of us have addressed but not solved.  This, for me, and as I am seeing, for many funders, is the problem.  We need to look for solutions.

Where Do You Start?
Make that bold statement.  Setting a long-term bold goal is the most important step.  When an organization, including staff, board and partners, are aligned on a BIG goal, anything is possible.  The article, When Good is Not Enough, refers to this as the North Star by which an organization makes decisions and allocates resources and the bottom line against which the organization measures its progress. Everything else flows from it.”

Your Vision should be so bold that the result is the end of homelessness in your community, the cure for a disease or a new system for educating pre-schoolers. 

Donald Berwick the CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, declared a bold goal, issuing a challenge to hospital administrators: “Here is what I think we should do. I think we should save 100,000 lives. And I think we should do that by June 14, 2006—18 months from today. Some is not a number; soon is not a time. Here’s the number: 100,000. Here’s the time: June 14, 2006—9 a.m.” And they made it work.  Hospitals that participated in the challenge saved an estimated 122,300 more lives than were projected during this time frame.

Act on Your Goal
When  you have decided to act on a problem at the magnitude it exists, you have to explore:  Who has a role to play in solving this problem?  Identify them and you have a Network.  With your ever-growing Network you can take on the challenge.

Next, you have to change the way people think, talk and act related to the need.  You’re going to change the conversation.  You create the “Designated Driver” language that is picked up by TV shows.  You begin the litter campaign that engages people and, eventually, leads to crime reduction.

When a new employee asked his difficult boss, Thomas Edison, about the rules in his lab, Edison answered, “There ain’t no rules around here. We’re trying to accomplish something!”  Everyone needs to feel like a pioneer, erasing the boundaries and raising expectations will produce results.


And one last thought that could have come from Edison too:

Everything is impossible until it isn’t.


Some articles well worth reading:

Creating High Impact Nonprofits Stanford Social Innovation Review

Embracing Risk in the Shift from “Program Thinking” to “Social Change Thinking” Nonprofit Quarterly

When Good is Not Enough  Stanford Social Innovation Review

Some Tools from Community Wealth Ventures

A Note on Thomas Edison:  I live a couple miles from the Thomas Edison National Park in West Orange NJ, which includes his home and his labs.  It’s a great place to visit and be inspired.

10 Steps to…Powerful Emails

at signEmail is essential to your communication plan!  Every nonprofit organization uses email to give information, keep in touch, send announcements and invitations and ask for money.  Email is an effective tool, here you’ll learn how to maximize your results.

Make your email work harder (and become a Champion at the same time!):

        1. Build a Great List.  Every nonprofit needs friends – and their addresses.  Be sure you have good email addresses for everyone you want to reach.  Continue to add addresses for people already in your database and for everyone new that you meet.
        2. Call to Action!  Decide before you write a word what you want to get from this email!  Every communication needs a clear Call to Action.  If you know what you want the reader to do, your email will be much more effective – whether it’s an invitation, newsletter, friendly greeting, request or appeal.  Make it easy for them to do just what you want them to do.
        3. Craft the subject line.  Choose your subject line carefully.  The subject of your email may make the difference between it being opened or ignored, in a typical mailing as many as 80% may never be opened.  Write something compelling and interesting that will make them want to know more.
        4. Here’s one I didn’t immediately open, the subject is:
          Celebrating 100 Years: Girl Scouting Works!
          When I did look (to write this) I found a story about some interesting research that shows women who were Girl Scouts are more successful. I shared this link with all my favorite past and present Girl Scouts. The email would have gotten my attention immediately if it had a subject like this:
          Study shows Girl Scouts earn more, give more
        5. Personalize it. Address each email individually whenever possible. If you have the technology and the knowledge of how to customize an email, use it.  If not use a friendly greeting like “Dear friend of Organization.”  If there is anyone receiving the email who may not be sure why they are getting it, state the reason up front: “You are receiving this invitation because you volunteered at our…” If you do not have a database program, like eTapestry or Convio, that provides mailing services you could use free or low cost mailing services like Mailchimp and Constant Contact.
        6. Write a strong opening.  Make sure your opening or headline makes them want to know more.  Compelling works better than persuasive.  You’ve got 5 seconds to capture their attention.  Go for it!
        7. Here are two examples from one organization asking recipients to sign up for a tour.
          Persuasive: Help us celebrate National NeighborWorks® Week
          “A Wonderful Surprise around every corner.” If you thought you knew all that Orange had to offer, think again!
        8. Choose the best format.  Just because you can make it look like a print newsletter doesn’t mean you should.  Like most people, I read personal emails but I don’t always get to the newsletters and other mass mailings.  Pay attention to what you open and read, it may help you make choices.  Try alternating a standard newsletter format with personalized emails and occasional news flashes.  Balance the “asks” with the “gives” – if you send two appeals a year be sure to send two (or more) invitations.  Introduce each newsletter story with a snappy headline, a short intro and a link to the full article on your site.  Use your established brand so it is instantly recognizable. 
        9. Use the right words.  Take the time to craft a well written email.  If writings not your thing have someone else do the writing (hire a copywriter if you can swing it).  Always have someone proofread!  Enough said.
        10. End with a great signature.  You, and everybody in your organization, should have an email signature; it is easy to create one in Outlook or Gmail.  It usually includes your name, contact information and a link to your website.  Include every option for someone to communicate with you or link to you.  It can even include a handwritten signature, your logo and a Facebook Like button.  
        11. Do it again. You are probably not communicating enough with your friends, volunteers, prospects and donors.  Frequency and consistency are important.  Try an extra mailing (or two) and measure the results.
        12. Book it. Create a full calendar of email communications.  Plan the why, who, what and where so there are no surprises or last minute rushes (I hope!).  

    That’s it! 10 steps to creating powerful emails that get you just what you need.

    Here are some links that may be helpful to you:
    Nonprofit databases



    Newsletter services


    Constant Contact

    Research on what works in email and other online marketing

    Marketing Experiments