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5 Keys to Grow & Sustain a Successful Nonprofit

Published Date:Mar 27, 2017 | Blog Category: eWomenNetwork
eWomenNetwork, Phyllis Smith

Make no mistake about it - a nonprofit is a business and should be run as such. Yes, you have a board to report to who makes decisions, but the same components that make for a successful business is also applied to a nonprofit organization.

5 Keys to Grow & Sustain a Successful Nonprofit

The eWomenNetwork Foundation has just created a program called, "Gifted Wisdom," which is designed to give free expert online training to people in the nonprofit world to help them launch and grow their organization. For a $5000 donation, we provide donors with access to our production facilities and production team to shoot and produce a training video for people in the nonprofit sector. 

Based on some of the tips from our Leave a Legacy (LAL) donors who have shot their training videos so far, I gathered a few nuggets that I deem vital to growing and sustaining a successful nonprofit organization.

They are:

1. Core Purpose - 2. Leadership - 3. Think BIG - 4. Marketing/Branding

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Core Purpose

Gifted Wisdom donor, Cassie Parks, says before you can even begin to move forward on your mission, you need to get clear on what your core purpose will be. Your core purpose is the very heartbeat of your mission. It's WHY you are doing what you're doing and WHO you want to impact.

If you and your team are not completely clear on your core purpose, then it will be more difficult to get people to donate to your organization. People who donate their hard-earned money want to know exactly why they are donating and who will benefit.

In addition, once you are clear on your core purpose then making decisions on how to promote your mission will be easier. Cassie uses an example of a high school board that was trying to save their fledgling school. Each person had a different reason or core purpose for why they wanted to keep the school running, so when it came to setting priorities for funding they couldn't agree. Once they got clear on their core purpose and everyone was on the same page, they were able disseminate how much funding they needed and where the money was going. 

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Another Gifted Wisdom donor, Gayle Lantz, is a leadership expert who worked with one of the largest not-for-profit organizations called TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America). It has a gigantic budget - somewhere in the hundreds of millions of dollars, since it is a subsidiary of the Carnegie Foundation. It is not a typical of your average nonprofit, but a powerful resource to emulate what it takes to be successful. 

Gayle says good leadership is the key to any successful business entity, which includes nonprofits. She says the 3 key components to being a successful leader is to:

  1. Have a leadership mindset - A leadership mindset includes being optimistic, knowing your outcomes or goals and seizing opportunities when they present themselves. 

  2. Know and leverage your strengths - This includes your strengths, your team's strengths and your organization's strengths. You do this through surveys, informal feedback and examining past stories or patterns. 

  3. Expand possibilities for your organization - Think BIG! Brainstorm ideas, engage more stakeholders, create a possibilities map, mastermind with big thinkers. 



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Think BIG!

Thinking BIG doesn't just mean big ideas. It also means wrapping your head around getting BIG donations. Gifted Wisdom donor, Jennifer Diepstraten, is a sales coach who is all about going after big money. She is also all about giving. If you want to make a difference in the world, a BIG difference, then you have to stop thinking small. You have to get rid of the shame you might feel around asking for money and know that the recipients of your efforts will be better off because of it.

Jennifer says instead of looking at potential donors as "giving" money to your organization, think of it as you are "allowing" them to contribute to a worthy cause. You see the difference?

The 3 keys to asking for big money is the following:

  1. Connect to your value - Value isn't just what the hard costs are. It's also about the labor, expenses, and even the experience for the recipients of your cause. If you connect to the real value of your purpose, you will inspire others to donate. Inspiration is a bigger motivator for donors than need.

  2. Focus on what matters to your potential donor - if you are making a presentation to a group of people at a fundraising event, know your demographic. Are they parents? Business owners? Who are they and what matters to THEM? Customize your presentation to reflect THEIR desires.

  3. What makes you and your organization unique? Once you connect to your value, go deep and uncover what makes you and your organization special and worth investing in.

All of these things will make you proud to ask for money, because you believe in its true value. 

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Once you get clear on your core purpose, develop a leadership mindset and know how to ask for BIG money, it's time to tell the world. Gifted Wisdom donor, Ellie White-Stevens, is a branding and marketing expert. 

In her training video, she talks about putting on a gala and supercharging giving. Whether it's for a specific gala or for your organization as a whole, consistency in your branding is key. 

Decide on your branding. This includes your color scheme, your font, graphics, anything that describes your organization and evokes a feeling. So, for example, if you're putting on a Christmas gala, most likely you're going to choose images or graphics with a holiday theme. That theme should be on every invitation, brochure, envelope, website and everything you are using to promote your event.

And, let me add something here - have a professional create your marketing materials. If you want to attract big money, you need to present yourself and organization as a legitimate and professional entity. Having your 16 year old son do it for you is just not the way to go. 

If you are having a gala, Ellie recommends you touch people in several ways including sending invitations via traditional mail, email event services like Eventbrite and a follow-up phone call, to name a few. 

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How it Works

 If you wish to contribute to the eWomenNetwork Foundation by becoming a Gifted Wisdom donor, here is what you get in a nutshell:

  1. Pre-Shoot Coaching: Once the donation is made, the donor schedules a studio day with our Account Manager, Jenn Simpson. After that, they get an online training call with Phyllis Smith, Content Manager for eWomenNetwork and former network TV and Radio Producer/Reporter, approx 1 week before their shoot to go over their PowerPoint, script and their on-camera presentation.

  1. VIP Dinner: The donor comes in the day before their scheduled shoot and gets a tour of our office and then goes out for a special dinner with Sandra and Kym Yancey, co-Founders, CEO and President of eWomenNetwork!

  1. VIP Day: The donors come into the Dallas office on their scheduled day, which could be shared with other donors, and receive VIP treatment including getting glammed with a professional hair and makeup artist, pre-studio coaching and practice while they wait to go into the studio, morning snacks and lunch.

  1. In-Studio: They then go into the studio to record their presentation with a professional video production team that includes on-camera coaching. They can use a teleprompter if they have a script. Many of them just use their PowerPoint slides as reference and make their talking points from there. Others use a script. It is up to them; whatever they are most comfortable doing.

  1. Final Video: Once the video is edited, reviewed and approved by the donor, they will receive a link to download their video for posting on their own website as well as the eWomen Foundation website. 

If you're ready to make a big difference in the world using your expertise, email Jenn Simpson at  

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