What You’re NOT Going to Do in 2017 (Part Two)

03 Oct 2016

This is Part Two of our three-part series on what you’re not going to do in 2017. My goal is to have you STOP making some of the mistakes that have been holding you back for years.

Last week, we discussed the fundamentals – how you’re not going to think of yourself as a nonprofit organization, how you’ll no longer ignore younger audiences and how you will discontinue your love affair with new donors. Let’s move on to part two, continuing on the road of what you’re NOT going to do in 2017.

In 2017, you are NOT going to:

Buy into the overhead myth.

If you don’t know what the overhead myth is, I suggest you get comfy and spend a day down the rabbit hole. In short, the myth is that nonprofits should spend as little of their money as possible on overhead costs (typically admin, staffing and fundraising). You most often see this articulated when a nonprofit shares that 95% of its costs go to programs in pie-chart format, usually on fundraising materials. Get rid of that. You’re not doing yourself or other nonprofits any favors. I know, this is crazy! You’ll get internal push-back for sure, but now that you’ve spent some time with the website above, you’ll be armed with all the info you need to make the case. Without this sea change, nonprofits will always struggle to keep talented staff, innovate and raise enough money to make long-term, impactful change.

First step: Take that allocation pie chart or percentage off your fundraising materials.

Consider good design a nice-to-have.

There’s a reason more graphic designers work in corporations and nonprofits now than in agencies. It’s because business has finally seen the value of design and creativity. We have Apple to thank in large part for this, along with their many other user-centric accomplishments. Good design does not always cost a lot of money (good strategy does, however). You should identify your content that will get the most attention and make sure that it is touched by a professional designer. You also need someone on staff that is tasked with being the brand manager (even if it’s only part of their job). It is their responsibility to see everything that leaves the organization and will be presented to the public. They make sure the logo, fonts and colors are correct, and they keep the messaging consistent. Otherwise, distrust seeps in, conscious or not, among those who see disparate messages and content. And distrust is not good for your nonprofit.

On this note, be wary of well-meaning graphic designers who offer pro bono work. Rarely does anyone “work” for free. They get to it when they get to it for free. They wait until the very last minute for free, causing undue stress to your team. And because the pro bono designer is here one day and gone the next, consistency is often a real problem. Consider paying your graphic designers something, even if it’s a deep discount of what they would normally be paid.

First step: Assign the brand manager role to someone with an eagle eye in your org.

Rely solely on donor or government funding.

We saw it in the downturn of 2009. Nonprofits who relied solely on government funding or donor giving took a big hit, cutting staff and programs. If you’re one of these nonprofits, I invite you to consider ways you may earn income. Is your revenue diversified? Do you receive some from donations, some from grants and some from the government? This is the best way to protect yourself when the economy hits a rough patch. And what about earned income? Does your nonprofit’s mission lend itself to other revenue sources? Perhaps you could you offer summer camps for kids, classes and workshops for businesses or parents, or membership levels to sustaining donors.

First step: Brainstorm earned revenue options for your organization that line up with your mission.

Keep going! These are important conversations and points to make with your team as you plan for 2017. Stay tuned for our final blog in this series where we’ll tackle overwhelm, fear of your email list and tracking success!

Rachel Clemens

Chief Marketing Officer

Rachel is responsible for sharing TradeMark Media's passion and expertise with the world.

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