Friday, August 27, 2004

Alliance Conference Part III Marketing

From Various Marketing Sessions at the Alliance for Nonprofit Management 2004 Annual Conference:

You need research! (from Debbie Mason, "The Marketing Plan.")
Marketing for nonprofits needs to be based on a knowledge of the market. This should include statisticly valid market research. If you can not afford statiscally valid research, understand that you are working with limited knowledge. While focus groups are a favorite tool for nonprofits, remember that you are only getting the opinions of the few people in the focus group and that the group is likely a biased sample (they were the ones that took the time to attend).

This may sound like basic marketing 101 but it is amazing how may nonprofits base their marketing and communications strategies on just the opinion of the executive director or the marketing committee of the board. This can be a waste of money but is partially explained by the drive to keep administrative costs down (see previous post) .

Great summary: (from Sally Patterson, Radiant Communications, " Constructing a Message Platform")
"It’s not about what we do, it’s about what we can do for you."

Listen: (from Compumentor's session on Blogs)
One great idea from the blogs session that doesn't rely on blogs is to make it easy for people to tell you what they think of you. Oceana even makes these comments (possitive and negative) public on their blogs.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Would you fly with this airline?

At the Alliance for Nonprofit Management board meeting before their annual conference, one board member (sorry, I've forgotten who) had a great response to funders who what nonprofits to limit their administration budgets to unreasonably low numbers:

Picture yourself on a commercial airplane, taxiing away from the terminal. The pilot ends his pre-flight announcements with: " We are pleased to announce that in recent ratings, our airline spends less on maintenance that any other airline in the United States."

What would you feel? What would you do?


Sunday, August 22, 2004

Cool things from the Alliance for Nonprofit management Conference Part 1

Back a couple weeks ago I attended the Alliance for Nonprofit Management Annual Conference in DC (Official disclaimer--I'm Vice President of the board of the Alliance so my evaluation of the conference may not be "totally" unbiased). It was a great conference with some great ideas that I jotted down. Over the next couple weeks, I'll be adding them to this blog:

Thursday night Keynote--Wendy Puriefoy, Public Education Network
(Some thoughts sparked by Wendy's comments--some ideas directly from her talk:)

First: The nonprofit sector is important to our society--
  • The nonprofit economy in the US, if it were a country, would be the seventh largest economy in the world. (And this doesn't count the nongovernmental organization/charity/civil society sector* in the rest of the world.
  • Astronomers are now theorizing that invisible "dark matter" holds the universe together. The nonprofit sector is the dark matter that holds our society together--and we are largely invisible.

Second: We need to have a place at the table--

  • While we are larger than the the seventh largest county in terms of the size of the economy, we don't have a place at the table.
  • In gaining that place at the table, we have to be careful. We have to keep asking if we are there to have a positive impact on our communities or are we there because we like having the influence and exposure?

Third: We have to guard our unique nonprofit culture--

  • We have to guard our humanity; Nonprofits are about people.
  • We have to guard our soul; Nonprofits can not lose site of their mission.
  • We can not lose our sense of outrage.

There has been a lot of talk recently about nonprofits having to improve their efficiency; about nonprofits having a customer focus; about nonprofits running more like a for-profit business. I agree with all of this. In fact, I find it hard to understand how nonprofits can operate with such poor systems for tracking clients, outcomes and projects.

BUT, we can not forget that nonprofits are about serving people. Being more like a business is good but we can not forget why many of our employees are working in nonprofits--it is not because of the high pay--it is about making a difference in their communities. I've seen nonprofits drive the business and customer language so far that they forget about what motivates their employees. They also seem to forget that even if their employees were motivated by money, big pay checks, stock options and big bonuses are not an option in nonprofit organizations.


*There's an issue of what do we call ourselves. We are called different things in different parts of the world ("Charity" in Canada, Civil Society in some of Western Europe, NGO in the UN and a number of international organizations). But nonprofit and nongovernmental organization both define us by what we are not. We need a better term.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Starting a blog

I've been thinking about starting this blog for about a year now. A session on bolgging at the recent Alliance for Nonprofit management annual conference (second week of August, '04) has finally gotten me to get started. In fact, I've decided to start two blogs:
  • One on a variety of nonprofit management stuff (this one)
  • One personal one--with various rants, comments and random stuff.

So, why am I starting these blogs. The reasons for the two blogs are totally different:

Nonprofit Stuff:

  • I'm starting my on nonprofit consulting practice. While I currently have a lot of visibility from my previous job creating and running MAP for Nonprofits' technology services, I need a way to keep my name and services in peoples minds. A paper newsletter was too expensive. I've thought of doing an email newsletter but getting the time to put together a whole issue has been difficult. With a blog, I can write posts whenever I have time and then remind people to visit the blog with a periodic email.
  • Most people think I mainly work with technology. What I really do is implementing new programs and help nonprofit organizations improve their operation. Technology is one of the tools I use. A blog will help me expand my image in the community beyond just technology.
  • Being an independent consultant, I can't walk down the hall and bug a co-worker with the "cool new thing" I just found about nonprofit managment. With a blog, I can do that to a wider audience.

Random stuff blog:

  • Being an independent consultant can be lonely.
  • I like to talk about my experiences with others. Being an independent consultant limits that (see"lonely" above).
  • I need a place to rant about the current Republican administration in Minnesota and in Washington DC.

I'll be adding things to these blogs randomly so check back.