Nonprofit Consultant Blog

New Online Course: Basic Training for Your Nonprofit Board of Directors

The Nonprofit Consultant

Today I'm very pleased to announce that my latest online course is now available on Udemy: Basic Training for Your Nonprofit Board of Directors. Some of the things covered in the course are: Legal requirements for Nonprofit Boards in the U.S.

Lately on Quora.

The Nonprofit Consultant

No, blog, I haven't forgotten about you, but I do apologize for not keeping you up-to-date. I've been spending much of my social media time over at Quora, answering questions about nonprofit management and fundraising (and a few questions of a more political nature). Here are links to a few of my recent answers: Why is a charity considered a business? (or, or, isn't it?) How does a walk/run/jog-a-thon work to raise money?


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When Not To Lead

The Nonprofit Consultant

To be a successful blogger we are told, "Be authoritative! Demonstrate your expertise!" But the truth is, all any of us can ever do is to write from our limited experience, share the lessons we have learned, and hope it helps somebody in their own journey. In the end, we are all in a constant process of learning. Even the so-called experts and teachers - if they're good at what they do - are still learning.

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I'm Back

The Nonprofit Consultant

After four years of working as a "permanent" full-time Executive Director, launching a start-up nonprofit, and only taking a few short-term consulting gigs from existing clients, I am once again available for new opportunities. So, what have I been doing these four years? I took on the challenge of being the first Executive Director of Recovery Cafe San Jose. And, yes, there were many challenges and frustrations, but it was also one of the greatest experiences of my professional life.

The Virtual Interim ED

The Nonprofit Consultant

A few weeks ago I began a new consulting gig as the Interim Executive Director of the Friends of Oakland Animal Services (FOAS). No big new thing there. I've taken Interim ED assignments half a dozen times before. But I've not taken an assignment like this during a time of official Shelter-in-Place orders (but, really, who has?). Previously, the only "virtual" consulting I've done has been limited to very short engagements. A few conversations, and advice, dispensed by phone or email.

Budgeting for Bequests

The Nonprofit Consultant

One thing about shelter-in-place; I’ve been going through notes and files and finding half-written ideas for blog posts that never made it here. One such germ of a post began with a question from another website (I’ve lost the link, not sure where the conversation started), “Do Bequest gifts to your organization at least total seven to nine percent of all charitable gift dollars each year? That’s the national average.”

Introducing Online Training in Grant Proposal Writing

The Nonprofit Consultant

From 2003-2018 I presented the class Basic Grant Proposal Writing Skills for Nonprofits at the Community Foundation Santa Cruz County about three times each year. During that same period, I also did custom versions of the class for several individual organizations and smaller coalitions of nonprofits. All-in-all, well over 1,000 individual nonprofit professionals have gone through my grant proposal writing trainings, and have been very satisfied with the results.

Aligning Nonprofit Strategy with Donor Preferences

The Nonprofit Consultant

Last week I attended the "What Really Matters" webinar from Abila to discuss the findings in their latest Donor Engagement Study. There were a few surprises in their latest findings, and several confirmations of what we've always known, or at least should have sensed. On of the key points that should be obvious, but bears repeating, is that Content is King. What you say is more important than the frequency with which you communicate, or even what medium or channel you are using.

Did LinkedIn help nonprofits & leave nonprofit professionals behind?

The Nonprofit Consultant

Some time back I blogged about LinkedIn's (then new) Board Connect Service as a great new resource for nonprofit organizations. In the couple of years since, LinkedIn has built upon and expanded their vision of "LinkedIn for Good" and their offerings to nonprofits. I have taken part in a couple of free nonprofit technology trainings provided by LinkedIn and have enjoyed meeting their enthusiastic and caring team.

Back to the Future of Philanthropy

The Nonprofit Consultant

I received a kind email from Erik Anderson, of the Donor Dreams Blog , suggesting I take on the subject of The Future of Philanthropy for this month's nonprofit blog carnival. Easy peasy, right? Well maybe not. In Erik's call for Future Philanthropy blogs he links to a TED Talk from 2007: Katherine Fulton on You are the future of philanthropy. I've watched the video a couple of times now, and Ms.

Why Common Core Will Fail

The Nonprofit Consultant

You''ve likely heard or read about Common Core by now. The latest in educational "fixes," promoted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Governors Association, and the Obama administration, the Common Core initiative was developed "to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce." And it will fail to improve our failing schools, wasting time, resources, and money in the process.

Challenges of an Interim Executive Director

The Nonprofit Consultant

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Kirsten Bullock for her Nonprofit Leaders Network podcast. The conversation turned quickly to my experiences over the years as an Interim Executive Director. Whether your organization is thinking of using an Interim ED, or whether you are a consultant thinking of getting into this sort of work, I hope you will find some advice in this conversation that will help you navigate the relationship successfully.

Are You Treating Your Cats Like Dogs?

The Nonprofit Consultant

I love dogs. Who wouldn''t? They''re fun, happy, and above all, loyal. It doesn''t take much to earn a dogs love. a scratch behind the ear in just the right spot, a tossed tennis ball, or dropped bits of food of any sort will do the trick. Dogs are easy. I love dogs, but I prefer cats. Cats are seen as aloof. Cats can be fickle. Cats demand respect. Some people say that cats are incapable of love. I feel sorry for those people.

The Five Stages of Nonprofit Board Fundraising

The Nonprofit Consultant

In the 1960s, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, working with terminally ill patients, hypothesized her five stages of grief, popularized in her 1969 publication of On Death and Dying. Since that time, the Kübler-Ross model has been applied to just about any form of personal loss, including job loss, divorce, death of a loved one, surviving natural disasters, and even incarceration.

Reaching Across Generations

The Nonprofit Consultant

How are you involving millenials in your organization''s work? This is a question we''ve all been hearing a lot lately. But I''m not sure that I like some of the answers. I''ve been in several conversations and meetings in recent months where the idea of creating a "millenial advisory group" was brought up. It was generally agreed among my peers (those of us between 40 and 65) that the younger generation may not be ready for the responsibility of being on a board of directors. "Oh,

Every Donor a Major Donor

The Nonprofit Consultant

One question that's always likely to come up when I teach a workshop on fund development is, "How do you define a major donor?" People ask this to determine some sort of line in how to thank and care for their donors; where to set the bar in setting aside one group of donors for "special treatment." If that's their goal, then the answer really depends on the size of the organization, and how well-developed and successful their individual giving program is.

The FCC is Coming After YOUR Nonprofit!

The Nonprofit Consultant

I''m not sure how closely any of you have been following the legal battles over "net neutrality" but the FCC has issued new (draft) rules that would effectively kill it (along with the ability of most nonprofits to use the web as an inexpensive communications strategy), all while wrapping itself up in the language of net neutrality.

Multichannel Communications - Management & Tips

The Nonprofit Consultant

A point I''ve been harping on for some time whenever I speak to groups of nonprofits is the importance of communicating to your supporters the way they want, not the ways you''re used to. In other words, while some of your supporters may still be looking for that annual holiday letter in the mail, others want to hear from you on Facebook, or by email, at an event, or even by the old telephone. This is what we mean by multichannel communications. This guest post is from Madeleine Hammond.

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Personal, Political, and Professional

The Nonprofit Consultant

The common sense advice that is frequently given about social media is to keep your personal and professional identities completely separate. Much like the age-old saw about not discussing religion or politics at social gatherings, this is meant to avoid controversy, and, more to the point, not give any work associates reason to disagree with you (or terminate your job, etc.).

The Business of Philanthropy - A Rant

The Nonprofit Consultant

I apologize in advance that today''s posting here is going to be more of a rant than a helpful article, but I hope you will sympathize with my frustration. This comes from two articles I read yesterday that left me shaking my head, wondering if the world''s gone crazy.

Nonprofit Rescue: The Pitch

The Nonprofit Consultant

We all have dreams for the nonprofit sector: increased individual giving, more effective boards, simplified government grant applications, better trained staff. Well, one of my dreams for the sector is greater public understanding of the nuts and bolts of how nonprofits operate, and I've got an idea for implementing it: a reality TV show. So far the only time real, community, grass-roots nonprofits have been seen on reality TV is on shows like the Secret Millionaire.

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The Irregularity of Regular Giving

The Nonprofit Consultant

We love our regular donors. As nonprofit professionals, we just love to look over our donor rolls and know that there''s a good percentage of those listed who will give again and again, year after year, and all we have to do is send them a nice annual letter. Maybe there''s even a few of those donors who have trusted us enough to let us charge a small amount to their credit card every month without even asking. Man, do we love them! But don''t get too complacent.

Trust 56

Three R's of Grant Writing

The Nonprofit Consultant

We had a great turnout at yesterday's Basic Grant Proposal Writing workshop at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County. The group asked a lot of great questions, and we covered a lot of material. Exhausting, but in a good way! At the end of the day, Community Foundation Communications Officer, Luis Chabolla, asked me to stick around and make a quick video for the Foundation's YouTube channel. Luis asked me for three quick grant writing tips in under two minutes.

Top Three Takeaways from the Nonprofit Overhead Challenge

The Nonprofit Consultant

If you''re not already talking about overhead, you should be, and you will be soon. Overhead, of course, is shorthand for what nonprofits spend on general management and oversight, fundraising, and membership development. In other words, anything that isn''t directly mission-related programming.

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Nonprofits and the 99%

The Nonprofit Consultant

By now I'm guessing that you have all heard about the Occupy Wall Street protests and the 99% movement. The Wall Street protests started more than three weeks ago, and was at first largely absent from the domestic press, with coverage only getting to us through the European press until the story was just too big to ignore. What surprises me is how little I'm still hearing from the nonprofit press about the movement.

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Let the Commencement Commence!

The Nonprofit Consultant

Good afternoon graduates, faculty, administration, families, friends, and distinguished alumni. I am very pleased to have been asked to give this year''s commencement address at this fine institution, even if I was a last minute replacement following the protests that accompanied your first several choices. I am even more pleased that every single one of this year''s graduates has chosen to move on to a career in the human services sector.

Giving With Impact - The Benevolent Way

The Nonprofit Consultant

I''ve blogged endlessly about the importance of storytelling in fundraising. Last month I wrote specifically about the human need to feel and show empathy for others , and its relationship to fundraising. Yesterday the connection between empathy and giving was demonstrated again in an article on Bloomberg Businessweek about the online donations going directly to the victims and families impacted by the Boston Marathon bombing ( Bombing Victims Get Millions as Internet Redefines Giving ).

Nonprofits as the Equalizing Force

The Nonprofit Consultant

Today is Blog Action Day 2014. Each year, BAD organizes bloggers from over 100 countries to write on a single theme for one day of coordinated action. This year''s theme is Inequality. As I searched around for a particular subject to write on, it hit me that I could not narrow it down to a single aspect of inequality that I could relate to work in the nonprofit sector.

Utah 45

The Rational Aspect of Irrational Philanthropy

The Nonprofit Consultant

A few weeks back I was at a social gathering and, in conversation with another attendee, wound up talking about the use of crowdfunding to help low-income people over hurdles on their way to self-sufficiency. She found it very interesting, and asked, "What country are they aiding?" My reply, "Well, um, here. The U.S., including groups down the street, right here in Berkeley!" She was a bit surprised, but pleased.

Whose Story is it Anyway?

The Nonprofit Consultant

I am one who has always believed in the value of good story telling in fundraising. Nothing earth shattering in that statement. Most anybody who has been successful in nonprofit fundraising - whether writing grant proposals, doing direct mail, or creating event programs - will tell you the same thing.

So You Want to Start a Nonprofit?

The Nonprofit Consultant

Yesterday, I tweeted out a link to the Donor Dreams Blog, asking " What do you think? Are nonprofits not "playing nice in the sandbox"? link] c2acO " In that blog, the author, consultant Erik Anderson, asks: Why is it that every time someone has a new idea, they want to start a new non-profit organization to do it? I find this knee jerk reaction so interesting and confounding.

Interim Executives Are Part Of Succession Planning

The Nonprofit Consultant

Yesterday, on Alan Harrison's Voice of Reason blog, he posted a great article about the pitfalls of bad succession planning and the occasional need for Interim Executive Directors. As a consultant who has five times served as an Interim ED, I agree with much of what Mr. Harrison has to say. In Mr. Harrison's colorful example, Jack is the departing long-term Director, who helps to personally choose Jill as his successor. Jill then flounders along for about a year before being eventually replaced.

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Why You Have To Do It Better

The Nonprofit Consultant

The "It" referred to in the title of this post is Social Media. And the problem is nonprofits who are under the impression that Twitter, Facebook, etc., are just about marketing. They think that it's just fine if their postings consist of nothing more than a sales pitch (or, in the nonprofit case, a donation pitch). Nonprofits can be forgiven, somewhat, for thinking that way. After all, using the news feeds from many local small businesses as examples, that's what we frequently see.

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Charity Apps Love 'em and Hate 'em

The Nonprofit Consultant

As nonprofit professionals, we''re always interested in ways to increase giving and reach new donors. Several new websites and mobile apps also seek to do just that. Some for better, some for. well, let''s just say that sometimes even the folks who want to help us don''t quite get it. Let''s start with what I find to be the best of this set, CharitySub. The premise is simple, and just an updated spin on giving circles.

Crowdfunding Roundup for Nonprofits

The Nonprofit Consultant

It seems that with the rise of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, crowdfunding is on everybody''s minds these days, but what''s a nonprofit to do? First, let''s clear up what we mean by crowdfunding, and how it differs from traditional online fundraising. Crowdfunding generally refers to grassroots efforts to raise money for a project or product that is in development, directly from the eventual purchasers.

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LinkedIn Launches Board Connect Service

The Nonprofit Consultant

LinkedIn, the social network for professionals of all sectors, has just announced the launch of their new Board Connect service for nonprofit organizations. If you're not already familiar with LinkedIn , it began, basically, as a place to post your online business profile/resume and connect with others in your field to grow your network using a "six degrees of separation" model.

Empathy for Sale

The Nonprofit Consultant

I've written about the power of storytelling in fundraising many times over. I've also written about the ethical question of organizations sharing their client's stories ( see Who's Story is it Anyway? ). Well, here we go again. Last weekend, walking along Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, I spotted a gentleman behind a card table set up on the side walk. He appeared to be in him mid-50s, neatly groomed long gray hair, comfortably dressed, ready to be of service.

Sales 49

Boardroom Musical Chairs

The Nonprofit Consultant

At lunch with a group of consultants a couple of months back, we were lamenting the tendency of certain local organizations to fill their empty board seats by simply bringing on the termed-out board members of closely-linked organizations. In this scenario, as positions open up, a director will typically say, "What about so-and-so? I know her from board X." And so on, as our boards shuffle around in very small circles. So, what's wrong with this?

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What's Your Non-Profit's Bottom Line?

The Nonprofit Consultant

From Guest Blogger Nick Cooney. Nick is the author of "Change Of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change" ( , and the founder and director of The Humane League, an animal advocacy organization based in Philadelphia, PA. Is your non-profit succeeding in its mission? How can you tell?

"Have the consultant do it"?

The Nonprofit Consultant

The title of this post is written with tongue in cheek, but it does get to what's often a fine line between consulting and contracting. Even when talking with other nonprofit consultants, we don't always agree on where we should draw the line between performing tasks for our client organizations and empowering them to perform these tasks themselves. As a prime example, when I started as an independent consultant, back in December 2003, one of the main things I did was grant proposal writing.

The Power of We the Nonprofits

The Nonprofit Consultant

Today is Blog Action Day 2012, " Founded in 2007, Blog Action Day brings together bloggers from different countries, interests and languages to blog about one important global topic on the same day. " The topic this year is " The Power of We." A little more abstract than previous topics, such as water, climate change, poverty, or food. And yet, this abstract theme encompasses all the others with a single answer. How do We address the problems of poverty, food distribution, potable water, etc?

Nonprofits Talking Taxes

The Nonprofit Consultant

Earlier this month I attended a workshop at the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County called " Show Me the Money: Nonprofits Talking Taxes." The workshop was conducted by Kim Klein, a well-known, much respected, and quite beloved fundraising consultant and trainer. But "talking taxes"? Kim Klein is the grassroots fundraising guru, not an economist or policy wonk.

The Power of Zilch: An interview with Nancy Lublin

The Nonprofit Consultant

One of my pet peeves has always been when well-meaning, but somewhat clueless outsiders tell us in the nonprofit sector that we need to be "more businesslike." Yes, there's much that each sector can learn from the best examples in other sectors of the economy, but I've always believed that the corporate sector should be learning from us when it comes to efficiency and getting the most out of limited resources.