A fun and useful litmus test for your board

What drives your board members to stay on the board? What happens if they can’t answer that question?

09 Oct 20120 Comments

How Board Meetings can turn your board members into donors

Are your board members your most engaged, passionate donors and volunteers? If you’re like most non-profits, the answer is a “hell, no.” But in theory, they should be. Whose fault is it?

25 Mar 20120 Comments

How to waste your board member's donations

One of the most common questions we ask is “how often should I ask for money?” We’re usually thinking of external donors, but what about your board members?

06 Feb 20120 Comments

I Don't Want Your Support

In my new job at Notre Dame, my focus has shifted more to fundraising and away from the broader marketing work. I recently met my my boss, who starts in a few weeks. He shared a few things he feels pretty strongly about, and one was that he hates the word “support.” It showed up agai...

01 Jan 20120 Comments

12 Lessons from Client Service

In my recent job change, I find myself in the first position where I’m not answering to clients. I’m not billable by the hour. It means fewer meetings and a very different kind of work. But I’ve also had an opportunity to reflect on the work I’m leaving behind. Working for...

15 Dec 20110 Comments

A New Leader's Guide to Board Management

A few years ago I became the board president for a small nonprofit. My predecessor was stepping away from the organization and offered no advice on the way out the door. I was starting blind, but with a fresh slate. When I stepped down and handed the reins to my successor, I offered some advice t...

07 Nov 20110 Comments

Advice for Non-Profit Newbies

This weekend, I was asked to give a brief speech to a group of college students in a nonprofit management program from Indiana State University. They were on a weekend volunteer retreat and I talked to them about my top three pieces of advice for new nonprofiteers. Raise Your Hand Many nonprofit...

30 Oct 20110 Comments

Board Behavior

Boards are a constant source of frustration for many who work for or with non-profits. Managing expectations, getting 100% support, defining board and staff roles – there’s plenty to work on. But sometimes it’s much, much worse. I just had to share this post from Step by Step Fu...

14 Oct 20110 Comments

My Last Board Meeting: Stepping down from Camp Fire USA

Last night, our Camp Fire USA council hosted its annual meeting. I presented our work from 2010, shared a few key changes we made, and we voted in new board members – including President. One of our key changes was the combination of two jobs, our Executive Director and the Camp Director. T...

10 Mar 20110 Comments

Going Back to my Future

When you begin work, you inherit all the problems of the past. It’s natural to grumble about those problems and the leaders who created them, but at some point those problems become yours. If you fail to address them during you...

04 Jan 20110 Comments

Top 4 Policies You Need

Hooray! You’re about to read about policies, which is a term that means “document that resulted from learning a painful lesson.” That’s right – policies exist because someone, somewhere, and in some situation, did something that made someone else go “we need to...

28 Sep 20100 Comments

A Leader's Note to the Future

In the late 1990s, the board of directors of a summer camp sold half of its land – 45 acres with a private pond and recently constructed cabins – for about $45,000. They did this to pay an expense they knew was coming. They should have planned for it, right? They could have found the ...

20 Jul 20100 Comments

Giving Up on Altruism

Is it truly altruism if you’re getting intangible benefits such as resume-building experience, connections and friendships, or even personal fulfillment? Very few of my friends are involved in non-profits in a volunteer leadership capacity. They may have volunteered in the past, but they&...

08 Apr 20100 Comments

3 Sad Stories about Your Non-Profit

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Desiderius Erasmus The Land of the Blind Let’s make a generalization: If you work for a non-profit organization, you are living in the past. You’re doing something outdated, for reasons you can’t quite articulate,...

07 Mar 20100 Comments

3 Lessons from Girl Scout Cookies

Our Camp Fire council had a discussion recently about how other youth organizations have changed over the years to meet new challenges and opportunities, respond to market forces, and simply try new things. This article from Comcast Finance talks about Girl Scout cookies and the breakdown of wher...

11 Feb 20100 Comments

Inefficient but Effective: Dartmouth

Sure, there’s a lot of demand for transparency in non-profits. Donor-investors expect you to run lean and clean, with as much efficiency as possible. But let’s face it: that’s not the goal of a non-profit. Your goal is your mission. Dartmouth’s development office produced ...

15 Jun 20090 Comments

Hired! How to Recruit and Hire in this Economy

Last month, Camp Fire posted a new job – our Executive Director. This was a big step for us. We’ve done it all wrong for quite some time, relying on a volunteer ED and trying to squeeze as much water from as many stones as possible. Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to suff...

14 Mar 20091 Comment

Hiring! Executive Director

Camp Fire USA River Bend Council is seeking qualified candidates for the position of Executive Director. It’s a full-time position located in South Bend, Indiana. View the position announcement >

09 Feb 20090 Comments


President Obama gave his first weekly address, available on YouTube. As part of an economic recovery plan, his administration is setting up a website to show “how and where your tax dollars are being spent.” has a brief “coming soon” type of message: An overs...

25 Jan 20090 Comments

What to Look for in an Executive Director

Our organization is hiring an executive director. Last week we had a debate about the role of an ED. Here are some angles we approached: Fundraiser Most not-for-profit organizations look at fundraising as a major part of what they do. This was my take, at first: we need a real fundraiser. A good ...

20 Jan 20090 Comments

What's your Bus Quotient?

I’ve worked with dozens of clients who wrote custom software to meet their needs, only to have the developer quit and leave them with no idea how to maintain, improve, or fix the system. Or a passionate volunteer who got burned out left the organization in a lurch, struggling to keep up th...

19 Jan 20090 Comments

7 Signs You're a Great Board Member

The Board of Directors does a lot of really important things: raising money, giving money, providing leadership, and generally guiding the organization. But some board members are better than others. They’re the ones that push the non-profit forward, help accomplish great things, and take t...

15 Dec 20080 Comments

4 Strategic Planning Team Exercises

In a couple of weeks, we’ll resume strategic planning. We took a break to figure out some urgent issues, and like any intimidating task we found it all too easy to put it off for much longer. I’ll be posting more about our efforts as we go. Exercise Your Optimism! Anyway, as we get st...

17 Nov 20080 Comments

Sasha Dichter's Manifesto for Non-Profit CEOs

Sasha Dichter wrote a fantastic Manifesto: In Defense of Raising Money I’m sending this to all of my board members and encourage you to take 10 minutes to read it.

27 Oct 20080 Comments

#1 Reason You're Not More Successful

I hinted at this in my posts about Blog Action Day and What All Those Fundraising Books Don’t Tell You. The difference between success and failure isn’t smarts or money. It’s not your logo or your office or your website. You’re not more successful because you’re not ...

27 Oct 20082 Comments

GOYA: Blog Action Day

Blog Action Day is a way to increase awareness of an issue and encourage some discussion. This year’s issue is poverty. I don’t work specifically with poverty issues, though a big part of my fundraising work is for camperships that provide financial aid for campers. The term Blog Act...

15 Oct 20082 Comments

Easy Mapping with GeoCommons

I love data mining and visualizations. I subscribe to FlowingData and pay special attention to graphs and charts in mainstream media. The power of an intuitive visualization, chart, or map can be very effective in telling a story and gleaning information. Over lunch with our Camp Fire executive d...

13 Oct 20082 Comments

The Transition Curve for Non-Profits

The Transition Curve is the emotional roller coaster that entrepreneurs feel as they build their businesses. As soon as I read this article, I realized it was just as applicable to non-profits. No, it’s more applicable because our work has everything to do with emotion. We tell emotional s...

05 Oct 20080 Comments

Generalists and Specialists

I’m a generalist. It has a lot to do with my professional ADHD: I can’t seem to focus on one thing. That means I’m not particularly great at any one thing. I am good at lots of stuff but rarely excellent. This doesn’t mean that I’ll never find success. It just means ...

22 Sep 20080 Comments

Recruiting Generation Y to Give and Get Involved

Some thoughts on recruiting 20-somethings to your non-profit cause. As a member of both a non-profit board and Generation Y, this is what I have to say about my peers. We are passionate. We are independent and challenge authority. We usually have a lot of debt and manage money poorly. We...

31 Aug 20080 Comments

Volunteeraholic Personality

When I joined the board of Camp Fire USA River Bend Council, I was warned by a mentor: “If you’re a workaholic, you’re going to be a volunteeraholic. Be careful.” Eight months later, I agree entirely. Don’t let yourself get burned out.

09 Aug 20080 Comments

Minister of Gratitude

When you rely on volunteers, donors, and the heroic efforts of a handful of paid staff members, thanking people is an absolute must. In fact, you should be really good at it. If you want to keep people involved, you can’t let this go. The problem is that thanking people takes time and optim...

03 Aug 20080 Comments

How to Stop Negativity in your Organization

Board meetings are shining points of optimism and positive energy. Nobody gets angry or frustrated, nobody holds their head in their hands, and there’s never any yelling. People are happy to be there, of course, so board member attendance is always 100%. Ha. What a load of crap. If you&#...

22 Jul 20080 Comments

Time and Taxes: The Deal with Deductions

A lot of non-profits use the lure of tax deductions to get free work from vendors, contractors, etc. But what can you really deduct on your taxes? One of the most popular articles on my web developer blog, answers this question. After hearing a few discussions of this lately, I th...

04 Jul 20081 Comment

Delegate good times, come on! (Let's delegate)

What an awful title. Kool and the Gang… eesh. As the hideous parody title indicates, it’s all about delegation. That’s become my defense against small non-profit woes – too much to do with too few people and too little time. Getting others to do the work for you. After all...

07 Jun 20080 Comments

IYI Library

I read a lot. I’m currently reading “Beyond Fundraising” by Kay Sprinkel Grace and “Making Library Web Sites Usable” by Tom Lehman and Terry Nikkel. I’ve nearly exhausted our small collection of non-profit resources at the Camp Fire office. Amber just discovere...

27 May 20080 Comments

How to Fix Everything

When we face seemingly insurmountable odds, it is easy to seek a silver bullet to magically solve your problems. We see this in desperate fundraising appeals to wealthy donors, last ditch (and very expensive!) advertising campaigns, and so on. There is no silver bullet. Sure, you might win the he...

27 May 20080 Comments

Non-Profit Manifesto

Non Profit Manifesto This isn’t a long, rambling manifesto. This isn’t a thou shalt not type of manifesto. It’s a Hugh MacLeod-style manifesto, one specifically for non-profit organizations. As a typically verbose, rambling moron, I really enjoy the challenge of saying a lot wi...

11 May 20080 Comments

Small Victories to Big Success

As baseball fans know, home runs are fun, but games are won through “small ball.” Singles, stolen bases, bunts, good defense, and solid pitching are what champions use to win championships. That is, success rarely comes from a single astonishing act—it comes from continued pers...

23 Mar 20080 Comments

Hey Old Folks: Think like a startup!

The number of new non-profits is growing at a phenomenal rate. From 1996 to 2006, the number of organizations went from 1 million to 1.4 million! source Meanwhile, older organizations are facing new challenges and often struggle to survive. Competition for funding is fierce – donors and cus...

11 Mar 20080 Comments