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Non-profit inside-the-box thinking: Sell-Sell-Sell ! ! !


As promised in last Friday’s post, I dedicated Tuesday, yesterday and today to challenging proponents of “outside-the-box thinking” and examining various “inside-the-box thinking” principles. This week’s posts were determined by DonorDreams blog subscribers who took the time to voice their opinions via a poll last Friday. Thank you to those of you who voted. Additionally, the foundation of these posts are rooted in Kirk Cheyfitz’s book “Thinking Insider The Box: The 12 Timeless Rules for Managing a Successful Business.” 

DonorDreams blog subscribers voted to hear more about chapter six of Cheyfitz’s book, which is titled “The Marketing Box: Unifying the Whole Business”.

I love how the author starts each chapter with a short sentence that serves as “food for thought”.  The following is how chapter six started:

You should be selling all the time.”

This is a complex chapter and a little mind-bending because the author contends that the average person’s idea about marketing is all wrong. Most people equate marketing with advertising, when in reality it is much bigger. He says in the book:

“Economists, academics, and marketing professionals have come to see marketing this way — as the single discipline that embraces and unites virtually every aspect of business activity. Marketing: Guides production . . . Governs distribution . . . Controls advertising, promotion and all marketing communications . . . Peter Drucker has written that business’s only purpose is “to create a customer,” and because of that, “marketing and innovation” are the two basic functions of business”.

Well . . . WOW! In a nutshell, Cheyfitz is saying:

Marketing is everything and

successful businesses do it all the time!

As I said in yesterday’s post, this concept is a little difficult to apply to non-profit corporations because the word “customer” usually conjures up images of clients and donors (or both) depending on which chair you sit in. Unlike yesterday, I won’t limit today’s blog to just talking about donors. I will attempt to GO GLOBAL.

I could probably write pages and pages on this topic because there is a lot of ground to cover. Instead, I will start a laundry list of examples and hand-off the baton to you so you can continue it in the comment section.

The following are just a few examples of  marketing (and you will see how it unifies everything we do):

  • How your program staff talks to and treats clients is marketing because it shapes the perceptions of your brand in the community among volunteers, donors, potential staff, prospective donors and future board members.
  • The decision to create a new program and write a big grant to get it off the ground is marketing. You are sending messages to people around you about what is important and what is a priority. These messages get picked up by volunteers, staff, clients, and donors. They in turn amplify these messages throughout the community. These actions and messages will even impact the long-term sustainability of your new program depending on donor perceptions.
  • Sticking with the creation of new programming from the last bullet point . . . talking with clients and prospective clients before making the decision to offer that new service is marketing. If your new program doesn’t fill a community need and your actual or potential clients, then it is your initiative will likely failure (which will likely have a ripple effect among donors, etc).
  • How and what the executive director says to or does with their staff is marketing. When they tell co-workers that the agency has challenges, it impacts staff turnover and in turn affects program quality and how the donor community’s perceptions of their investments.
  • Talking to volunteers and donors before developing another special event fundraiser is marketing. You need to determine if people will support this new idea before investing time and money into developing it.
  • What an executive director includes in the board packet and says in the boardroom is marketing. All of those messages get amplified by your community ambassadors (aka board volunteers) on the street when they’re networking.

Cheyfitz tells us that marketing happens pre-production, during production, and definitely after production. In non-profit terms, it happens before the donor writes the check, during the solicitation process, and in-between gifts for the duration of your relationship with that donor. More specifically, marketing happens during every waking moment of a non-profit professional’s life in their dealing with staff, volunteers, clients, board members, donors, and the community-at-large.

At the end of this chapter, Cheyfitz offers six different tips on how to build your organization’s box rather as opposed to thinking outside of it. I won’t ruin the surprise (because you should buy this book and read it), but I will share two of his tips to whet your appetite:

  1. Marketing (in other words everything you do) must unify every aspect of a business around one purpose: creating a customer.
  2. Every time a company touches a customer, there is an opportunity to win or lose that customer. These opportunities must be maximized, not avoided.

How does your organization see and approach “marketing”? Are you trying to thread the idea of marketing throughout everything you do? If so, can you share a few examples? How do you prepare others (e.g. staff, board members, etc) to communicate and demonstrate what your agency is all about? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Non-profit inside-the-box thinking: Donors are the boss


As promised in last Friday’s post, I am dedicating yesterday, today and tomorrow to challenging proponents of “outside-the-box thinking” and examining various “inside-the-box thinking” principles. This week’s posts were determined by DonorDreams blog subscribers who took the time to voice their opinions via a poll last Friday. Thank you to those of you who voted. Additionally, the foundation of these posts are rooted in Kirk Cheyfitz’s book “Thinking Insider The Box: The 12 Timeless Rules for Managing a Successful Business.” 

DonorDreams blog subscribers voted to hear more about chapter five of Cheyfitz’s book, which is titled “The Box Top: Customers Are The Boss”.

I love how the author starts each chapter with a short sentence that serves as “food for thought”. The following is how chapter one was started:

Give customers what they want, not what you want to give them.”

Most of this chapter talks about how the “customer experience” has been the foundation of our economy for centuries and is easily traced back to the Middle Ages. Cheyfitz does a great job telling readers about customer-centric lessons we can all take to heart that were developed by the silk merchants in the 1300s, the town butchers in the 1700s, and the department store barons like Sears and Wards in the 1900s. It was eye-opening to see how the author took seemingly “modern” business practices (e.g. using CRM to segment customers into niches, using customer loyalty programs to reduce turnover, etc) and trace them back to pre-Magna Carta days.

As I attempt to make heads-or-tails out of this chapter for non-profits, it strikes me that non-profits have a more difficult challenge than their for-profit cousins when it comes to focusing on customers and thinking inside-the-box.

Why? Because when a non-profit reads the word “customer,” two different images are conjured up . . . “donor” and “client”. I believe that successful non-profit leaders are able to balance these interests and develop customer-focused approaches for both audiences. However, for the balance of this blog post, I am just going to focus on the donor side of this equation.

For those of you who routinely read DonorDreams blog, it won’t be surprising to learn that everything Cheyfitz talks about in chapter five aligns perfectly with what Penelope Burk espouses in her book “Donor Centered Fundraising“.  You can see this is clearly the case from the following language on page 74:

Simply put: Find out what customers really want, then give it to them. Make sure they have plenty of choices — in what they buy, where they buy, how they buy, and how they pay for it all. And address them personally, talk to them honestly, and treat them well every step of the way.

The bigger question for me is: “How many non-profit organizations are really doing this?”

  • We work hard to convince donors to give us unrestricted gifts rather than funding a specific program.
  • We write funding proposals aimed at telling donors what we need.
  • We solicit donors using tactics that fit our needs and match our resources rather than how the donor feels most comfortable being solicited.
  • We fire off a database generated thank you letter and skimp on the transparency when it comes to showing donors exactly what their contribution paid for and what good it helped do.

As I think back to some of the most successful donor relationships that I’ve personally built, it really goes back to personal interaction, building a relationship into a friendship, understanding what the donor really wanted to get out of the relationship, and treating them like I treat members of my family.

So, how can non-profit organizations get back to the customer service principles used by the small town butcher or general store owner? How do we build our box and think inside of it rather than trying to “think outside-the-box”?

At the end of this chapter, Cheyfitz offers six different tips on how to build this box. I won’t ruin the surprise (because you should buy this book and read it), but I will share two of his tips to whet your appetite:

  1. Never assume you know the reason a customer does anything. Always ask. Always listen. Always use the resulting information.
  2. When creating a customer relationship plan, ask . . .
    • Who needs to be talked to and courted?
    • What different groups do they fall into?
    • What outcomes are desired?
    • What messages will be delivered?
    • How will success be measured?

Not only will these tips help you craft an awesome stewardship plan for your donors, but they are the basis for almost any plan you will ever write for you organization (e.g. strategic plan, marketing plan, business plan, board development plan, etc).

It is easy to conclude after reading this chapter that if you’re not personally sitting down with at least one donor every day, then you’re not living “inside-the-box” and your organization is not donor-centered.

How do you meet your donors’ needs? How do you know what those needs are? How do you successfully align donors needs with your clients’ needs? What are you doing to keep this “inside-the-box” principle in front of you every single day? Please use the comment box below to share answers to these questions or any other thoughts that this post may have inspired.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Non-profit “inside the box thinking” — Understanding change


As promised in last Friday’s post, I am dedicating today, tomorrow and Thursday to challenging proponents of “outside-the-box thinking” and examining various “inside-the-box thinking” principles. This week’s posts were determined by DonorDreams blog subscribers who took the time to voice their opinions via a poll last Friday. Thank you to those of you who voted. Additionally, the foundation of these posts are rooted in Kirk Cheyfitz’s book “Thinking Insider The Box: The 12 Timeless Rules for Managing a Successful Business.” 

DonorDreams blog subscribers voted to hear more about chapter one of Cheyfitz’s book, which is titled “The Basic Box: Some Things Never Change”.

I love how the author starts each chapter with a short sentence that serves as “food for thought”. The following is how chapter one was started:

Know the difference between what will change and what won’t, and pay attention to the former.”

Most of this chapter talks about how some economists and many pundits are flat wrong about what they see as a “new economy”. He points to the dot-com bust of 2001 and talks about how ignoring human behavior and the basic principles of capitalism will get you and your company in trouble all of the time.

This chapter got me thinking about Gail Perry’s recent post titled “Post Recession Donors Have Changed” over at her Fired Up Fundraising blog.

After reading Perry’s post about donors, I realized the following:

  • There will always be donors regardless of how good, bad or sluggish the economy is. This will never change.
  • The mindset of those donors and conditions upon which they will donate is always evolving. This is constantly changing.

Cheyfitz’s encourages us to pay attention to “what will change” because not focusing on the ever-changing landscape is what puts too many companies (both for-profit and non-profit) out-of-business.

Gail Perry tells us in her blog that post-recession donors . . .

  • trust non-profit agencies less than they used to,
  • crave more information about ROI,
  • want to see more transparency, and
  • want to contribute to fewer unrestricted fundraising campaigns.

Read Gail’s blog for a few great tips on how to use “inside-the-box thinking” to address these perceived trends in the donor community.

There are also many other interesting trends occurring in the donor community:

  • technology’s impact on giving,
  • technology’s impact of cultivation and stewardship activities, and
  • donor communications moving  from one-way to two-way communications.

Cheyfitz urges us to not focus on “the shiny object” (in this case it would be technology) and throw what works out the window for what we don’t understand (e.g. ePhilanthropy). However, he does not tell us to ignore the changes that are starting to happen. Instead, he point to the words that are chiseled above the entrance of the National Archives in Washington, D.C.:

“The past is prologue”

He ends the chapter by saying, “Paying attention to history, in short, can save a lot of time and pain and produce a lot of gain.”

The non-profit sector has seen this kind of change in communication technology before, right? I am thinking about the rise of “direct mail” and how that changed how we cultivate, solicit, and steward donors today.

I suspect that non-profits, who tossed their special events and peer-to-peer annual campaigns onto the trash heap and invested everything they had into direct mail, probably went out of business. Those who survived kept their eyes on the trend, engaged their donors in thoughtful discussions about their preferences with direct mail, and proceeded forward with caution and strategic focus.

Again . . . outside-the box thinking will sink you, and inside-the-box thinking will keep you afloat.

At the end of every chapter, Cheyfitz provides a few tips on how to “build your box” so that you can think inside of it. He offered four tips at the end of chapter one, but the last tip struck me as very appropriate for non-profit organizations during these challenging and changing times (read the word “customer” as “donor” to help with the non-profit translation):

“Use your time to focus on how your customers’ lives are changing and how you can serve their emerging needs with new products and services (delivered using the same old business models).”

Are your donors behaving different after the economic crash of 2008? What is your donor data telling showing? What are donors telling you? What kinds of “inside-the-box” best practices are you employing to thrive in this new economic climate? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share a thought or two with your fellow non-profit professionals this morning.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Uh oh . . . you’re thinking outside-the-box again


Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

Today, I am not really “focusing” on John’s recent post about inside-the-box thinking, outside-the-box thinking, and just plain old reconstruction of your box thinking. Instead, I’m using his post as a springboard to set-up deeper discussions next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on specific “inside-the-box thinking” topics pertaining to the non-profit community.

When I was a young executive director a decade ago, I decided a few years into my tenure that I probably didn’t know everything there was to know about running a non-profit organization and a business. So, I committed myself to becoming a lifelong learner about such things. I started reading various manuals that our national organization published. I used Google to search for online articles. I especially loved going to Borders book stores on weekends and purchasing business books.

When John talked about the importance of organizational leadership and building new boxes where employees can be productive again, it reminded me of a book I once read and still sits on my bookshelf. The author is Kirk Cheyfitz, and the book is titled “Thinking Inside The Box: The 12 Timeless Rules for Managing a Successful Business“.

After reading a sentence or two from that short promotional passage on the inside cover, purchasing the book was a forgone conclusion. It was these words that hooked me and succinctly captures the essence of the book:

For the past decade and more, everyone in business was told that success in a rapidly changing world required constant “thinking outside the box.” The result has often been financially and ethically disastrous. Now, in a radical reassessment of what really works, this book shows that the business world lost its way when it forgot how to think inside the box.”

Hmmmm? Re-reading those same words today now makes me think about Wall Street, mortgage-backed securities, derivativesand the economic crash of 2008. However, I will resist the temptation of going down that rabbit hole this morning.

There are many things that stick with me 10 years after reading this book. One of the biggest things is what goes through my mind every time I hear a non-profit executive director say those magical words:

“Thinking outside-the-box”

I don’t conjure up images of “innovation” or “leadership” like many other people apparently do. The first thing that runs through my head is “uh-oh, they’re in trouble”.  For me, the phrase “thinking outside-the-box” represents all of the following:

  • magical thinking
  • hope (which is not a strategy)
  • abandonment of best practices

I believe there are some “business practices” that are timeless and always work regardless of which sector you’re working and in what boxes you find yourself. Abandoning those practices in the name of “outside-the-box thinking” is what gets you in trouble.

For example, the following are just a few of the chapter titles you will find in the book:

  • The Money Box: Cash Is Everything . . . If you don’t manage your cash, you won’t be managing anything for long.
  • The Box Top: Customers Are the Boss . . . Give customers what they want, not what you want to give them.
  • The Basic Box: Some Things Never Change . . . Know the difference between what will change and what won’t, and pay attention to the former.
  • The Marketing Box: Unifying the Whole Business . . . You should be selling all the time.
  • The People Box: Hire Smart or Manage Hard . . . When it comes to people, you can hire smart and get out of the way, or you can run yourself ragged micromanaging.

There are many more chapters with equally thought-provoking business practices. Every new non-profit executive director should read this book.

Next week I will choose three chapters and go in-depth on those subjects in a way that speaks to the challenges non-profit leaders face every day. I also will pull stories from my non-profit experiences to illustrate those points and have a little fund along the way.

Using the poll below, please vote for three ideas that interest you the most. If you’re a subscriber and reading this as an email, you may not be able to vote (you never know … please try). If you find that you can’t vote from the email copy of this post, please click the hyperlink blog post title, which will take you to my WordPress blog site and cast your vote there. I am genuinely interested in your opinion and need help shaping next week’s content. Please?

For the love of God, it is 2012 and it is a Presidential Election year. Please vote!

Have you ever done something that you and others considered “outside-the-box”? If so, what was it? Did it work? How do you know it worked? Would you have been better off building a different box per John Greco’s suggestion? Please weigh-in with your thoughts using the comment box below (and please take 5 seconds to cast your votes).

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

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