Reflections on 21st Century Nonprofit Strategy

chessboard2 800x224 GSWhile collaboration is not new, it certainly seems to be gaining momentum.  Perhaps that's because more and more people and organizations are discovering that together we're not only stronger, but we're smarter. 

I experienced a genuine buzz of collaboration at the Colorado Nonprofit Association's 21st Annual Fall Conference and collaborated myself with my good friend and colleague Rachel T. Emmer.  She is a frequent collaborator at Questus Strategies, where we've assembled a cadre of strategy architects who take a team approach to projects exactly for those aforementioned reasons. For the conference, she and I presented two separate workshops: "21st Century Website Realities" and "Foraging for Funding, Creating Social Enterprise."

Social Enterprise was on the tip of everyone's tongue at the conference.  Many nonprofits are exploring earned-income possibilities while social benefit-oriented companies look to forge social good out of a business model. Unfortunately, according to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 business entrepreneurs fail within the first 18 months.

In a recent Forbes article Five Reasons 8 Out Of 10 Businesses Fail the article points to the "inability to nail a profitable business model with proven revenue streams" as a major factor. That's why our Foraging for Funding workshop presented a process for vetting ideas for further feasibility study. Using a World Cafe format and some innovative decision matrix tools, participants worked through the process of how to sort through a myriad of business ideas. We were pleasantly surprised to overhear several people exclaim: "Best workshop so far!" Having started several businesses, I know half the battle is in the preparation and planning.

The Forbes article also points out: "No real differentiation in the market (read: lack of unique value propositions)" and "Failure to communicate value propositions in clear, concise and compelling fashion" as two other reasons businesses fail. That's where 21st Century Website Realities offered tips on how you can leverage content marketing strategy and use your website as the hub for all your marketing activities.

Today, when someone wants to learn more about your organization, the first place they go is your website. Yet, even with the importance of making a favorable first impression, it's remarkable how many sites fall flat.  You only have 8 to 10 seconds to capture a reader's attention, so it's vital to make the most of it. While building credibility with a contemporary, professional-looking site is essential, what's most imperitive is engaging your audience, that often means having something both powerfully moving and relevant to say.

By answering the following: What do you do? Why is it important? And, what's the impact to the community? You begin to build a relationship that answers the most central question of all: "Why should I give you any money?" Content marketing leverages our basic need for stories and deeper connections; by listening, conversing, and teaching instead of pitching, you set your organization up as an expert in your field and that encourages people to return time after time.

I've been on a soapbox talking about these ideas for a while now. But, I must say I felt pleasantly validated when Tuesday's keynote speaker, Susan McPherson, SVP & Director of Global Marketing for the NY, NY Public Relations firm Fenton echoed our advice. Two things are critical in mission achievement; emotional connection and community engagement; it's effective storytelling that gets you more than halfway there.

You can find our presentations on the Questus Strategies website and soon we'll have complimentary ebooks available to help you get the basics in place.

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