Trends for Non-Profit Leaders to Consider When Leading Change

From Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog:

Crowdsourced Philanthropy: Check out Givkwik to see an emerging version of this at work.


Digital Action Campaigns: By “liking” an organization on Facebook you unlock a donation. See John Haydon’s post on 4 Types of Cause Marketing. 


Issue Awareness Campaigns: UNICEF recently ran a campaign on their Facebook page to raise awareness for their cause by tagging people who deserved a medal for their efforts.

Data Only Becomes Powerful in Decision Making When…

Decision makers use it to change the current distribution of the resources on hand.

Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer wrote 9 Principles of Innovation, naming ‘Data Is Apolitical’ as one of them.

“Some companies think of design as an art. We think of design as a science. It doesn’t matter who is the favorite or how much you like this aesthetic versus that aesthetic. It all comes down to data.”–Mayer

The “We” she mentions cannot be the same hypothetical “We” that most organizations have–as in “we believe we are only truly innovative ____ today.” She means the key decision makers who set the organizational culture.

Important to leading with data is avoiding using “vanity metrics” to drive decisions.

“Numbers that give the illusion of progress but often mask the true relationship between cause and effect.”–source

The first step in leveraging data is to find a current project that is being driven by political opinions, conduct research to determine the amount of resources being invested into the project, as well as it’s current outcomes. Demonstrating the ability to improve results and help those involved with this project achieve outcomes that they want is more important than convincing them of the idea of using data.

To read more about Vanity Metrics I would recommend Eric Ries’ post Why Vanity Metrics Are Dangerous. 

3 Sentences on Simple and Powerful Design

“Good design is invisible. Minimum input, maximum output, with minimal conscious thought is what screen designers focus on. We do not try to find the perfect solution but the best compromise.”–Yves Behar

Good Design Quote

Leading Change Today Starts with Empathy

Social media continues to get noisier, but within that noise are individual voices and collective passions that your organization can listen to and optimize around in order to maximize effectiveness.

Leading change today does not start with shouting loudly. When the voices and audiences were few, shouting worked. Now that the voices are many and audience members can have more “Klout” than the speaker,  an organization will thrive by it’s ability to relate as a kindred spirit rather than a commander in chief.

Effective organizations are using social media to listen before they send a Tweet. They friend and follow only the people that share their interests. They share, comment and reply as much as they promote.

What Channel Do THEY Tune Into?

The people you want to reach do not want to work hard to find you. Generation C assumes that if you do not show up you must not be important to them.

The easiest way to organize your digital communications is by what makes most sense to you–this is often why some organizations have five different Facebook Pages for the same or variances of the same audience. Although the audience might organize around organizational lines when they give money or volunteer, they do not prefer to consume and interact with your organization in that same manner.

antique tv

It’s fatiguing and confusing for those outside of your organization to follow more than one account on Facebook and Twitter. Outside of your organization the amount of fans or followers plus the consistency and breadth of content matter more than the department from which that account is managed.

Before you create another online account to match a sub-department of your larger organization consider whether those whom you are seeking to influence would see a significant difference between that account and the account of the larger organization, and whether or not you have the resources to keep this new account updated with fresh content that’s significantly different than the larger organization’s account.

Otherwise you will face significant resistance in gaining new followers (since they will not understand why they need to follow another account), and dilute the identity of your organization in the minds of your audience (especially if the content, tone, and frequency vary significantly from one account to the next).

Social media allows the audience unprecedented access and influence on your organization’s online presence. It’s time to let them determine how each account is organized and managed.

When Change Becomes the Strategy

The assumptions with organizations is that they are created to last forever. The reality is that most for and non-profits last less than forever, and often not long at all.

Digital/social media accelerates growth (Instagram sold for $1 Billion after less than 2 years of existence) as well as decline (Borders Book Stores). Value and effectiveness are easier to spot, and there have never been more options for spending/giving money. These forces create almost a baseline of change.

Effective change requires a willingness to listen and empathize with opportunities or problems in which you might not believe. Preferences has never been more of a liability than they are today. Your preferences might literally put you out of business (Kodak).

Effective change is also incredibly rewarding on a personal level. My wife wrote a blog post that she would not have even considered writing just a few years ago. Her experiences as a mom have changed the way she looks at life. She has changed for the better, and it’s deep, lasting, and incredibly meaningful. This is within the reach of employees, when empowerment, trust, and accountability are integrated into day to day operations.

Organizations that change will succeed = Cliche

Organizations that listen, empathize, and empower people to efficiently and effectively live out their mission will achieve radical business outcomes and transform the lives of their employees = Reality

From Institutional Education to Scalable Experiences

Generation C will move from investing primarily in institutional education towards scalable experiences as a path to the career of their dreams.

I recently participated in my first hackathon focused on re-inventing business. It was a blast.

It provided an amazing scalable experience–what I learned and who I met transcended my current role, amplified my passions, and connected me with a cross disciplinary group of people of whom I would have never met apart from an event such as this. 

Hackathons aren’t springing up around the country because they are cool, but because they are scalable and a meaningful (albeit indirect) route to a meaningful career.

The value of education has been called into question by billionaire Mark Cuban. 

“College wasn’t originally designed to merely be a continuation of high school (but with more binge drinking). In many places, though, that’s what it has become. The data I’m seeing shows that a degree (from one of those famous schools, with or without a football team) doesn’t translate into significantly better career opportunities, a better job or more happiness than a degree from a cheaper institution.”

You do not have to have technological expertise to lead or participate in a hackathon, or design a conference, retreat, or training time with the same elements and goals.

We are not far from a future where scalable experiences such as hackathons, side projects, and volunteer/service opportunities will be the primary driver of career advancement or change. The abundance of information and the ease in which people can find, mobilize, and collaborate with others has exponentially increased.

Those dependent on institutional learning modules and education to help them navigate this change might only find debt: either financial or in intellectual capital (your organization simply cannot innovate and learn at the speed of the those who effectively collaborate across organizations and disciplines.) You will be poor in knowledge relative to other organizations who leverage outside information.

“As an employer I want the best prepared and qualified employees. I could care less if the source of their education was accredited by a bunch of old men and women who think they know what is best for the world. I want people who can do the job. I want the best and brightest. Not a piece of paper.”–Mark Cuban

If organizational lines have already blurred by digital media, collaborating across organizations and disciplines regularly is a serious threat to institutional education.

Build A Digital Infrastructure

The mission of your organization cannot be realized without an infrastructure to support and nourish the resources at hand.

It’s easy to see social media as a marketing component (which it is), but hard to see it as as vital as electricity to operating efficiently.

Because many non-profits confuse scarce resources with a scarcity mindset, digital and social becomes marginalized or modularized at the fringes of each department, instead of embedded and integrated into the core.

Key Activities to Start Building Your Digital Infrastructure

  • Grab as many digital accounts as possible. Use only the ones that meet your organizational objectives and match the preferences of your audience. There were lots of non-profits that did not believe in Twitter that are now paying the price with awkward or non-intuitive user names.
  • Coordinate content creation. Smartphones enable everyone from your President to your first time volunteer to contribute digital content. A person or team needs to be responsible for this; expecting everyone to get it and do it is impractical.
  • Centralize digital content archiving. Digital media can be used and reused in multiple ways–for fundraising, general communication, resource sharing, etc.
  • Strategize as though your organization has no walls. Because online it doesn’t. Conversations happen with or without your permission. You have the opportunity to influence, not control the conversation.
  • Don’t wait any longer. It’s not going to go away.

“Can your company’s inside rate of change match the rate of change you see on the outside? If not, it’s time to take a good hard look at social technologies and start thinking about how they can help.”–Dave Gray, The Connected Company

Real Innovation Disrupts the Status Quo

“How much a company spends on innovation doesn’t matter, because what’s important is what the company spends on real breakthroughs rather than sustaining ideas.”–Better, Faster, Cheaper is Not Innovation

This quote referenced Kodak’s (and many other companies) investment in R&D that improves existing technology, rather than disruptive technology.

It also applies to why many efforts of ministries and non-profits to “innovate” on social or digital media fall flat. I’ve seen upwards of 100 iPhone apps designed by ministries or non-profits without a strategy or purpose other than to “be innovative.” I’ve also seen individual fundraisers create short, personal, and powerful YouTube videos for their donors that transform the relationship between them.

For some communication tactics there is a linear relationships where one can be substituted for the other: A text message can replace a phone call, a Facebook update can replace a verbal announcement at a large meeting, etc. The goal behind this is general awareness.

But when the goal becomes to empower more volunteers, raise significantly more money, recruit or train hundreds/thousands of more people than the year(s) before, there is not a linear relationship. Most of us have learned that creating a Facebook page will not suddenly give us access to 800 million people around the world, even though it’s technically possible.

When you start thinking about significantly changing your methods for accomplishing your goals and stop thinking about switching out traditional media solutions for digital, you will start getting close to significant breakthroughs.

The Value of Moving Away from the Top Down Mindset


I discovered this tweet yesterday and it resonated with a key shift that many ministries need to make. Many ministries have a top down structure, and communicate from a “me first, you second” position. The King is the starting and ending point, and communications seek to make him stand out amongst the rest.

I’ve noticed that the most innovative and powerful communications happening on social media between ministries and their audiences are ones that invert this paradigm to “you first, me second.” The kingdom–the staff, volunteers, and the interested but not yet empowered are the focus, and the King releases people and resources in ways that make them more famous than him.

If your ministry is the hero of the story chances the content you are sharing is not resonating as powerfully as it could if the volunteers and new people were the hero.

Some words to watch for that signal a “me first” paradigm: 

  • Come
  • I/I’m/We
  • Our
  • Join
  • Check out
  • Don’t forget

Consider replacing or integrating words such as these into your online conversations:

  • Thank you
  • Hope you/your
  • Any chance
  • Good luck
  • Your
  • What/why/how
  • Great job/idea/question/link

I looked through @redbull’s Tweets and found they do a fantastic job of balancing their content and making their fans/the kingdom feel unique, heard, and encouraged. It could be a great place to compare your current content with their and finds some new ways to engage your audience.