Resource Library

August 07, 2016

Vulnerability: A Deeper Dive Into the Nonprofit Funding Challenge

Sustainability is understood generally as a measure of the ability of an organization to create mission impact without depleting its human and financial resources. As noted by Masaoka and her colleagues, sustainability is not a destination, but an orientation. In other words, there is no finish line in the journey toward financial viability. To appreciate […]

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June 28, 2016

“I Don’t Know Quite How to Say This”: The Language of Strategy

Words matter. More specifically, the meaning that we attach to words matter. The psychologist Lev Vygotsky, in a seminal work in the area of cognitive science, first introduced the idea that language – the words we use to communicate – shapes the form and scope of our internal thoughts. While there have been variations on […]

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April 13, 2016

The Sociological Imagination: How to Build a Culture of Board Governance

Sometimes, we need a wider lens to get a fuller view of the landscape. If we want to capture the vastness of the forest, for example, a close-up image of a single tree will not provide the proper perspective. Whatever the object, if we zoom in too tightly, we have no context for understanding the […]

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February 20, 2015

How Nonprofit Strategy is Different

Nonprofits are bombarded with books (and consultants!) presenting a range of approaches to strategy development, many of them in the form of boilerplate templates imported from the for-profit sector. But lest we throw out the baby with the bathwater, let’s acknowledge the value to nonprofits of the traditional for-profit approaches to strategy. For-profit strategy reminds […]

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April 17, 2013

Beyond the Obvious: What a “Funding Problem” May Reveal about a Nonprofit

Note: This article was published on the CausePlanet website on March 31, 2013. Ask any nonprofit board member or executive director what poses the greatest challenge to their organization and you are likely to hear this: “our greatest challenge is lack of adequate funding.” While they may not be able to offer a complex analysis […]

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February 08, 2013

Preaching to the Choir: Reaching the Right People with the Right Message

The prevailing wisdom among nonprofits when it comes to fundraising goes something like this: “If more people know about us, we will raise more money.” The reality, however, is more nuanced and goes something like this: If the right people know the right things about you, there is a greater likelihood that you will raise […]

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November 07, 2012

Keeping Strategy Alive: The Three Simple Questions

Why is it that, despite our best intentions, the work that goes in to the development of a strategic plan does not pay off in the end? By “not paying off,” I mean the process of strategy development does not evolve into a mindset of ongoing strategic thinking. Why not? The answer is both simple […]

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October 01, 2012

Lions, Zebras, and the Law of the Jungle: How Markets Matter to Nonprofits

The law of survival in the jungle is simple: you don’t have to be faster than the lion, just one step faster than the slowest zebra. The mantra of the under-achiever? To the contrary, this is the wisdom of a creature that has figured out what game it is playing – what the threats are, […]

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March 27, 2012

If You’ve Seen One Good Board…

I have been asked numerous times by clients to describe what a “good board” looks like. I understand the point of the question – what is the right size, what are the right committees, etc. But asking what a board should look like misses the more important point, which is this: a good board is […]

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October 18, 2011

Is Your Strategy Sound?

A few years ago I discovered a framework for evaluating foundation strategy (developed by Peter Frumpkin) that draws attention to three critical features of strategy: its soundness, the quality of its implementation, and the results it produces. The framework has proven to be immensely helpful to me as I work with foundations and has transferred […]

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