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How to Be an Agent for Change

25 Mar

This weekend I spoke about “leading change” as a panelist at the Silicon Valley Education Conference ( in Mountain View, California.  The conversation was so refreshingly honest and insightful, I thought I would share with you my takeaways.

If you want to be an agent for change–a leader of change–there are three things you can do:

  1. Lose yourself.  Make a commitment to yourself that you are not interested in what you deserve or what you are entitled to.  90% of the important advances in the world are accomplished by tired people.  Focusing on yourself–trying to be less tired, trying to have more time for yourself, trying to protect your own interests–will only make you unhappy in the end.  Forget yourself and decide that you will focus externally, knowing that in the end, working on “greater good” is what has the power to make people (including you) happy.
  2. Decide who you are.  There are three types of change agents:
    • Visionary:  Someone who can see with true clarity of vision what others cannot see, and who can motivate and inspire others to get there.  Nothing happens without this person.
    • Organizer:  Someone who may not have seen it on their own, but recognizes it when he/she sees it, and can bring extraordinary organizational skills to bear to make sure the vision becomes a reality.  Nothing happens without this person.
    • Doer:  Someone who rolls up their sleeves and dives in with unparalleled craftsmanship and pride.  Whatever their unique skillset, they apply it within the organizational framework to advance the mission with efficiency and excellence.  Nothing happens without this person.
    • None of these roles is more important than the other two.  They are all equally necessary to effect change.  The most important thing is to recognize which of these describes who you are and then commit to play that role the very best you can.  Don’t get caught up in titles–figure out which of the three roles you were made to play, and then evaluate opportunities to play that role.
  3. Choose your cause.  You must actively look for your cause–it will not come looking for you.  Don’t wait for someone to give you “permission” to create change.  By its very definition, opportunity to effect change will not emerge out of the status quo, and you will not find it in your current job description.  Being a change agent doesn’t require a title or a certain job anyway.  You can make positive change where and when you decide to.  Look for the cause you care about, identify the role that you can do well, make sure the people filling the other roles are as passionate and capable as you , and then JUST DO IT!

Of course, whenever you are involved in change, the highs are high and the lows are low.  When you are at your lowest, remember point #1 above.  It is not about you.  You are working toward a higher good.  If this venture doesn’t work out, the next one will.  The less you can focus on yourself and the more you can focus on the change you are making for good, the easier it will be to get through the low times.  When you are able to stay focused and determined despite the odds, you will be surprised how often things break your way.  Things that seemed impossible suddenly become possible, and pieces that didn’t fit before suddenly find a solution.  This does not happen when you give up or get discouraged or distracted, but it happens a surprising percentage of the time when you stay focused.

I really enjoyed my co-panelists, Josh Edwards (Amazon) and Jessica Johnson (RBL Group) and the moderator, Maggie Goloboy (McKinsey).  Thank you!



Non Profits use Fundly to CrowdFund for Good

25 Dec

Anna and Henry talk about leveraging crowdfunding to raise awareness and money for their cause through their social networks.

LinkedIn Launches Board Connect

24 Sep

John Maxwell, author, pastor, and public speaker, writes, “Some people have a dream but no team – their dream is impossible. Some people have a dream but a bad team – their dream is a nightmare. Some people have a dream and are building a team – their dream has potential. Some people have a dream and a great team – their dream is inevitable.” Who is on your team?

One of the cornerstones of any nonprofit is the board members that come alongside the CEO to create a team of professionals with the wisdom, experience, and connections to make a dream a reality. Finding the right members with the skills and chemistry to work together can be a difficult, but this task just got easier with a new tool called “Board Connect” that is being implemented on LinkedIn.

Meg Garlinhouse, head of employment brand and community for LinkedIn, told Mashable, “There’s a huge supply and demand issue we’re trying to solve — more than 2 million non-profit board seats need to be filled each year and non-profit leaders are challenged with finding the right individuals to join those boards.”

Board Connect helps nonprofits find board members in three ways: 1) those who sign up get free access to TalentFinder to “amplify your ability to search and to reach out to your boards extended network.” This service is a $1000 value! 2) LinkedIn offers a free webcast interactive product tutorial to help you gain the skills you need to navigate their system and 3) you can receive exclusive content and make peer connections through the LinkedIn network.

LinkedIn also provides company pages so that your group can advertise your mission and gain supporters of like-mindedness to your cause. You can post updates, recruit volunteers, and make valuable connections with other who have a passion for your cause.

Finding the right board members to come alongside your organization is vital to the existence of your nonprofit. Not only can they provide valuable business advice and direction for you, but the connections that the professionals have in your area are priceless. I’ve worked with organizations that have had local news anchors as board members and the draw that a celebrity name brings can double your attendance to events. Not only that, but the pull that reputable professionals have brings much needed credibility and integrity to your name therefore causing more donors to trust you with their dollars.

Extreme Fundraisers vs. Online Fundraising

13 Sep

We’ve all seen or been asked to participate in extreme fundraisers: you know, the ones that say buy a raffle ticket for $1,000 to get a chance to win a million dollar home or if the group raises X amount of dollars, the leader will shave his head. Do donors really need that type of motivation to give? Is it worth the risk of funding and reputation to get a burst of donations?

Reporter Jason DeRusha gave an overview of this topic in Good Question: Do Extreme Fundraisers Pay Off? as he highlighted a local Minnesota Boy Scout troop who offered each boy who raised over $1,000 a chance to repel off of a 22-story skyscraper. “Many people are far surpassing that,” said John Marshall, organizer of the Boy Scouts’ Double Dog Dare fundraiser, “We have people raising $5,000.”

DeRush reports that “a survey of nonprofit fundraising found 80 percent of nonprofits raise money using events… But extreme fundraisers are risky, because they are very expensive to put on.” In this situation, insurance costs alone could be counterproductive to the dollars donated verses the fees to put on the event. Is it  necessary to provide lures to encourage people to give?

In my experience, these extreme fundraising tactics are fine if you keep the prize in direct proportion to your fundraising goals and organization size. If you put  a bunch of time and effort into advertising this type of gimmick, but come out with little or no money raised, the investment might be considered “worth it” if you were able to raise awareness for your organization. However, if the prize is grandiose and your organization is small, the payoff is rarely equivalent to the risk. Step back and gauge who your donor list consists of and what your potential is for success. Ask yourself a few questions: Can your supporters afford high priced tickets? Will this take away from their future gifts? If you promise a house as a prize and give a 50/50 check for $2,000, how will this affect your reputation? On the other hand, relative to DeRush’s example, repelling off of a building is a great reward for a bunch of Boy Scouts to raise money.

DeRush states that most fundraising dollars do not come from events.

According to the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, the vast majority of dollars come through direct donations from corporations and individuals.

I have to say that I concur. I have never met a donor that bought a raffle ticket or made a donation to help reach a crazy goal who then became a committed supporter; it’s usually a one-time gift without being a long-term investment.

So what’s the answer? Do you throw away your events and your attention grabbing hooks? Absolutely not! Count the cost of your innovative ideas and have realistic expectations of what the results will be. Part of being a nonprofit is accepting risk and relying on the generous donations of others, but being overzealous can cost you time, dollars, and, if it flops, it could be difficult to recuperate your good name and the trust of your supporters (two of the most important qualities every charity must guard).

Online fundraising is one way that you can have minimal investment with high potential results. It’s about building relationships to encourage long-term giving and support. It may not always provide the mega surge in giving that over-the-top fundraisers do, but you can reach more people and you still can have giving highs around important projects. It also doesn’t have to be one or the other. Advertise your events, goals, prizes, and outcomes using social media networks. You still need to create interest and intrigue your Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

Like anything in life, it’s all about balance. When you reach the most people you can in a variety of ways, that’s when your nonprofit has the best chance at fulfilling your purpose.

Getting Those Who Need to Be “Got”

12 Sep

Over the weekend I heard a dynamic young speaker who was addressing the issue of giving misguided teens a purpose to help them stay on the right path. He made a statement that really stuck with me: “We want to do what no one else is doing to get those who have not already been ‘got’.” As I write this article several days later, I can’t help but think that this statement can have so many facets pertaining to the nonprofit world.

The Client Side

First of all, this idea is the perfect catalyst for many service organizations who want to reach the down-and-out, those chained by addiction, or for kids who seem to be slipping through the cracks in our educational system. What can you do that other similar organizations aren’t doing to reach those who feel like they don’t want or need help? How can you show that your group is beyond the sugar-coated stereotypes, is effective, and truly cares?

I’ve seen countless speakers in my years working with nonprofits and usually I don’t give much thought to them days after I’ve watched their presentations. What made this young man so different went beyond the fact that he was an unusually gifted speaker; his passion, research, and tangible plan made the whole room of parents and grandparents stand to its feet and applaud his vision. With a blonde Mohawk a mile high and looking like a professional wrestler, he was also cool enough to relate to the people he has a desire to help.

The Donor Side

You can’t do much in this world without money, and that’s the second side of this statement that I want to address. What can you do that no one else is doing to get the donors that you don’t already have (and quite frankly, those who haven’t pledged their commitment to another nonprofit)? Fortunately 71 percent of American households give to charities (according to Dunham and Company’s annual New Year’s Philanthropy Survey), but on the down side it is only 3 to 5 percent of their gross income as stated on That means that over 38 million households aren’t giving and that a majority of households have the potential to give more (because I personally think 3 percent is quite low on the generosity scale). That’s a whole lot of money with a whole lot of giving capability. Now what can you do to inspire those who aren’t giving, to give, and those who are giving, to give more?

This is hardly a new idea and is probably written on the job description of every development director. We spend hours of time at staff and board meetings trying to figure out how to raise more money and reach more people. Here are some ways that suggests can boost giving for your charity:

  • Build a more compelling case for giving in light of a more competitive fundraising environment. Charities built strong messages around the consequences of not supporting their cause, such as highlighting the loss of education or art programs, the closing of a center, or reductions in services.
  • Improve communications with donors through quarterly newsletters and regular email announcements.
  • Partner with other organizations to raise visibility and gain a broader audience.
  • Improve efforts in getting small annual gifts from members and acknowledging donor gifts within one or two days.
  • Increase advocacy work and draw attention to a need or crisis.
  • Shift priorities from fundraising for specific groups to fundraising for specific problems or needs.

There are some more basic ways to get what you haven’t got: get ideas from other nonprofits, ask your supporters what they would like to see more of, and have an open brainstorming session with your employees. Who knows what can happen when you ask the right questions?!

The Who, What, and Where of Charitable Contributions

5 Sep

The total charitable contributions by individuals, corporations, and foundations in the United States for 2010 was $290.8 billion. Of that number, individual giving was an estimated $211.7 billion*. So, who is getting all that money? More importantly, how can your organization claim more of it?!

Let’s break down the who, what, and where of charitable contributions. The Chronicle of Philanthropy conducted its own survey to pinpoint which states, cities, and metropolitan areas are the most generous. Here’s what they found:

Top Five Most Generous States 
  1. California: $17.2B
  2. New York: $11.3B
  3. Texas: $10.7B
  4. Florida: $7.4B
  5. Illinois: $6B
Top 5 Most Generous Cities
  1. Provo, Utah: Median donation $7,059
  2. Logan, Utah: $6,354
  3. St. George, Utah: $5,568
  4. Ogden, Utah: $5,186
  5. Idaho Falls, Idaho: $4,886
Top 5 Most Populous Metropolitan Areas
  1. Salt Lake City: $834.5M / Median percent of income given 9%
  2. Memphis: $703.8M / 7.2%
  3. Birmingham, Alabama: $771.8M / 7.1%
  4. Nashville: $850.9M / 6%
  5. Atlanta: $3.2B / 5.9%

Now that we know where the giving is taking place, how is it divided by sector? has posted the following stats:

  • 32% of all donations ($95.88 billion) went to religious organizations, most of which can be attributed to people giving to their local place of worship. The next largest sector was education, with $38.87 billion.
  • In 2011, giving by bequest was $24.41 billion, foundations gave $41.67 billion, and corporations donated $14.55 billion.
  • As compared to 2010, giving in 2011 showed that donations were up for  health charities (2.7%), public benefit charities (4%), art, culture, humanities charities (4.1%), International charities (7.6%), human services charities (2.5%), and environmental/animal charities (4.6%).

Now that I’ve bombarded you with facts, what can we takeaway from this information? There seems to be a strong common thread linking together the most generous cities, metropolitan areas, and the recipients of the largest portion of donations. Perhaps other nonprofit organizations can take a few pointers from religious organizations based on these statistics. First of all, donors tied to religious organizations often feel a moral and personal obligation to give. There is a higher sense of purpose which drives their generosity and keeps them faithfully giving. Secondly, there is a sense of community within these organizations that unites their supporters with one another and the organization itself. What opportunities are you providing for your donors to come together, connect with each other and your staff, and join together to further your cause? Informational meetings, facility tours, volunteer opportunities, Facebook groups, concerts, etc. are all ways to gather your supporters together for community development. Follow these up with accountability, relationship cultivation, and commitment, and your donors will begin to feel more connected to your cause.

Another takeaway: giving is up across the board. Though it may be a little ironic that numbers tend to rise in a recession, I contribute this fact to a couple of things: 1) there are more opportunities to give and more causes to give to and 2) it’s easier than ever to give. With the internet becoming more and more of an integral part of our daily lives, many causes are coming to the forefront of our consciousness through social media, e-mail, and publicized celebrity endorsements. Not only are we more aware of the news around us, but also of social conditions and hardships. Now, more than ever, we are living in an information revolution.

Back to the original question: who’s doing the giving? Apparently a whole lot of people.

*as reported by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University

Social Media Quotables and Factoids

31 Aug

With so much to do and so little time, it can be difficult to always determine what to post on Facebook or Tweet on Twitter on a regular basis. You know that you need a consistent presence using social media to stay in touch with your donor base, but some days or weeks that seems almost impossible. Well, fear not! I’ve scoured the web to find some of the most inspirational and informative quotes for you to cut and paste to encourage your donors and followers. You may also want to use this list as a way to create intro paragraphs for newsletter articles, create interaction on social media networks by asking your audience if they agree or disagree with the statement, or as text on a webpage to spur on others to give. (Some of these sayings may be more applicable to certain causes than others, but I tried to find a gamut of text to cover many bases.)


  • “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein
  • “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.” – Betty Reese
  • “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss
  • ”The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.” – George Eliot
  • “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” – Henry David Thoreau
  • “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catchers mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.” – Maya Angelou
  • “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” – Robert F. Kennedy
  • “We can always live on less when we have more to live for.” – S. Stephen McKenney
  • “We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.” – Sonia Johnson
  • “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”-  Mother Teresa
  • “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” – Oscar Wilde
  • “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill


  • “Middle-class Amer­i­cans give a far bigger share of their discretionary income to charities than the rich. Households that earn $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more.” –
  • “1 in 10 US workers are employed by nonprofits; revenues earned by US nonprofits are greater than the entire economies of Saudi Arabia and Sweden combined.” –
  • “Nonprofits employ approximately 13.5 million employees, or nearly 10% of the US Workforce; the nonprofit sector contributes more than $540 billion in wages to the economy, and accounts for 9% of all wages in the US.” –
  • “As of 2010, there were over 1 million (1,046,720) public charities and over 115,000 private foundation (115,915). Of those registered with the IRS, 90.3 percent has revenues under $500,000.”
  • “First Year Donor Retention is 29.3%. That means 7 out of 10 donors don’t give again the following year. If you ran a business and lost 70% of your customers every year, then you probably wouldn’t be open for long.”
  • “Recurring Gift Donors only accounted for 10% of all US Donors…That means organizations are missing out on more stable and predictable fundraising revenue. Not to mention that recurring donor populations have grown 22% from 2005 to 2009, compared to a decline of 13% in single-gift donors.”

While the quotations can easily inspire others to get involved, they can also be catalysts for your own employees. The factoids clearly show the importance of nonprofits in the fabric of our society and the need for individuals to continue to support your cause on an ongoing basis. The best strategy is to maintain consistency using social media networks and to let your donors know what you are doing. Even these simple posts can cause supporters to get inspired by you and ponder what they can do to help.