“I work for a non profit.”

overhead, Dan Pallotta, Charity Defense Council
Dan Pallotta's ad campaign to get people "over" overhead.

The topic of renaming the non profit sector came up a lot at the Washington State Nonprofit Conference last Friday. That’s because Dan Pallotta, author of Uncharitable and shaker-upper-of-all-things-traditionally-nonprofit, gave the keynote. He’s the guy who pointed out that, in Latin, non profit means “non progress” and that that’s a pretty lame name for a group of people hell bent on making progress on a better world.

While we continue the hunt for a better name for the non profit sector–one that might actually stick so people would actually change behavior and stop saying it–I’ve got a suggestion.

People who work in the for profit space don’t say, “I work for an S-Corp/C-Corp/LLC/etc.” They say, “I work for a bank.” or “I’m in IT project management.” or “I build websites.”

Why do those in the ‘for purpose’ space, as Pencils for Purpose Founder Adam Braun would say, start with, “I work for a nonprofit. We [insert blurb about what you do]”? Why do we feel compelled to preface our answer by clarifying our tax status?

Taking out the tax status reference would be a giant step toward being known for what we do and why we do it, rather than how the IRS refers to us.

That can only be good, right?

Nonprofit Marketing Makeovers

Makeovers. They’re all the rage. And nonprofits deserve them just as much as Norma Jean (who became Marilyn after she was made over).

Instead of thinking of extreme, think ‘mini’. Check out my presentation from the 2012 Washington State Nonprofit Conference for examples of how to make over attitudes, actions, visuals and words to achieve greater impact.


Thinking Big at #WSNPC

Earlier today, I spoke at the 17th Annual Washington State Nonprofit Conference. My goal was to offer up content that gave people something to think about and something concrete to do. Some big thinking and some let’s get ‘er done.

Sessions on trends are hard. There are a ton of trends so which ones do you highlight? My litmus was this: is this something that, if it goes to scale, could be a HUGE boon for individual organizations, the people they serve, and the sector as a whole?

I opened with what I hope will be a headline from Clay Holtzman of the Puget Sound Business Journal on May 6, 2012.

Donations & volunteerism at all time high
Nonprofits cite stories and smart phones as secret to success.

If we can think big yet stay focused, I really think we can make this happen. If we fall prey to shiny object syndrome, we’ll be looking at a different headline. And that’ll be a bummer for everyone.

Here is what Zan McColloch-Lussier (@zanarama) took away from the session. (And a big hat tip to Zan for drawing my attention to the importance of niche social networks.) And Jen Power (@comradebunny) did a super summary on her blog as well.

If you attended, what were your take-aways? If you didn’t attend, what jumps out at you from the presentation (handily available below)? What trends do you plan try or watch? Which ones would you advise nonprofits to avoid?

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Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?