The Natural Disaster Happening in People’s Lives Every Day

Don’t Let Yesterday Use Too Much of Today – Indian Proverb

Although I’m someone who has a significant presence in life, I don’t want you to think I’ve got it all figured it out. Recently, I was asked why I’m so tough on leaders. I responded that I’ve been there. I was the founder and CEO of a major nonprofit, which I grew to a large organization. Today, I’m the founder and chief executive officer of three social enterprises.

Here’s what I’ve learned in doing my work and in life: there’s a natural disaster happening in someone’s life every day. You may meet someone in your work day and they will smile and give you the energy that gives you the reason to think all is well with them–but that’s far from the case. For better or worse, that’s life. And, professionals know that the job must and will be done and they’ve got an important part to play. So, they put aside whatever they’re suffering and get to work.

Another reason why I give people in general a hard time and expect so much is that Americans have so much. We are so wealthy in money, time, experience and skills compared to so many around the world. However, I’m not discounting the suffering in our country. I’m not saying that people who are dealing with poverty, disease, divorce, death or whatever else are not entitled to feel and experience their pain. Again, there’s a natural disaster happening in people’s lives each and every day. I get it and understand.

But, what I am trying to highlight here is that as a society we try to avoid the “drama.” We even have a wealth of space and boundaries.

That’s not okay.

Sometimes I find there’s general disinterest in understanding the suffering of others in our lives. People don’t want to get their hands dirty, and they’d rather be too busy with their problems than pause for a moment and help someone else carry a load a few feet.

I think in many ways that Americans may be the ones in need. No, I’m not remotely talking about the political landscape. Enough about that! What I am saying is that many of us have beautiful houses, comfortable homes, plenty to eat, nice cars and perhaps some fancy toys. Just because all appearances lead us to think “everything’s great,” be aware that there are people in your life, right now, going through something terrible.

It’s not okay not to take a moment when someone looks to you or pauses when you ask them how they’re doing, to get your hands a little dirty in the “drama.”

We’re on this planet for a finite number of days. If those days are mere hours or strung together to equate to many years, it’s still a limited number of days. That means most of us have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.

Never underestimate what a smile toward a stranger or inviting a colleague to lunch can mean in the moment and the broader context of their lives.

We each have the capacity to make a difference, however large or small, in someone’s life.

Be aware that every day we are making many decisions. By our actions, we make a decision to intercede or ignore a situation of a fellow human being, if we feel that perhaps someone else can deal with it.

Make no mistake; you have power in your life to make a difference and help someone through the natural disaster that’s happening in their lives. It’s your choice whether you will choose to get your hands a little dirty or ignore it.

Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” – Free Digital Download at

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.

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Pay-What-It-Takes Philanthropy Is Beginning to Take Root

Finally, it seems that the insanity around the “nonprofit starvation cycle” is coming to an end. For those of you who may be new to the world of philanthropy, the nonprofit starvation cycle happens when donors have unrealistic-and absurd-expectations regarding the costs of running an organization. For a long time, donors have been restricting their money to direct program costs. Apparently, it’s been acceptable for a business to have operating expenses, but not for a nonprofit. However, donors have missed the point. Nonprofits are a business. They’re simply a tax-exempt business.

This downward expense pressure from donors has caused the following situations:

  • There’s been a rigid doctrine by funders to place most, or all, nonprofits-no matter what’s happening in the organization-in a 15 percent straight jacket on expenses. In reality, this is an arbitrary number. When charities are in the midst of a capital campaign or are expanding their organization so they can grow to scale, they’re expenses rise as they’re making capital investments.
  • Some nonprofits claim to have as little as 5 percent or even zero costs. These rates of expenditure are simply not credible or realistic. And, it’s perpetuated the delusion that nonprofits should be operating with little to no overhead.
  • Nonprofit executives have had to, essentially, fudge the numbers. Since it’s not realistic to run an organization with little or zero expenses-unless it’s wholly volunteer-driven (and even then it’s a tough case)-charity directors have sought clever ways to bury operating expenses in program costs. The creative reporting, in turn, distorts program ratios.

I’m happy to report that the push-back that’s happening in the industry against this impossible and arbitrary reality is starting to change the conversation.In the Stanford Social Innovation Review, philanthropy’s biggest funders are saying this has to change, and there’s been a grave injustice. By the way, the nonprofit starvation cycle is one of the reasons why the majority of charities remain small and can’t grow. They’re unable to get the operational investment capital to develop.

According to an SSIR Summer 2016 article, leading philanthropists are looking to move from the nonprofit starvation cycle to “pay-what-it-takes” philanthropy. This model is, “a flexible approach grounded in real costs that would replace the rigid 15 percent cap on overhead reimbursements followed by most major foundations.”

Pay-what-it-takes is dependent on transparent and clear reporting regarding actual program costs. And, more importantly, it shifts the dialogue from the actual program to the impact any given program and nonprofit are making.

In the SSIR article, the president of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker, said, “All of us in the nonprofit ecosystem are party to a charade with terrible consequences-what we might call the ‘overhead fiction.'” To help alleviate and begin to adequately address the issue, last year the Ford Foundation doubled the rate it allowed nonprofits to report for overhead and administration.

The Bridgespan Group published a report that found the following at 20 leading nonprofit organizations they studied, “We discovered that indirect costs make up a much larger percentage of a nonprofit’s total costs than is widely understood. Of the nonprofits we surveyed, indirect costs made up between 21 percent and 89 percent of direct costs. The median indirect cost rate for all 20 nonprofits was 40 percent, nearly three times the 15 percent overhead rate that most foundations provide. To be clear: Higher or lower is neither better nor worse. These figures are not measures of either effectiveness or efficiency. Rather, they reflect the mix of direct and indirect costs required to deliver impact.”

I’ve been a social entrepreneur for a long time, and one of the biggest problems I believe the nonprofit sector has faced is the lunacy of having to report 15 percent or less operating costs, no matter what was happening in the organization. We’ve done damage to the sector because most charities haven’t been able to grow or develop. Donors have left many in an unsustainable position. We’ve also created a situation where there’s “creative” reporting, which damages the credibility of nonprofits. You have to wonder why so many people in the general public believe nonprofits are not to be trusted. It’s one of the reasons that charities aren’t viewed in a positive light.

I’m glad that the loud voices agitating for change are being heard. We have all the tools we need to eradicate poverty, hunger, and some diseases. The only way to make that happen is to be committed to operating in reality and move away from obscure and creative reporting.

Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” – Free Digital Download at

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.

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Your Relationship With Donors Is a Two-Way Street

Not too long ago I was speaking to a director of development at a school. Susan was excited because she had been working for two years trying to get her principal and the board started on a strategic plan. As any good fundraiser knows, a good strategic plan helps clarify fundraising goals and priorities.

I asked Susan if they had involved donors outside of the board. It’s a good idea to get thoughts that go outside of the bubble board members and staff can sometimes get into. She said that they hadn’t reached out to people beyond the board.

Why You Should Survey Your Donors

I suggested to Susan that if it wasn’t too late, it might serve them well to survey major and general gift donors. It’s important to see outside of your own universe. At my social enterprise, we’re always surveying people who partner with us as well as those who don’t. We want to know everything about what we’re doing right and how we can continually improve.

All of that information is vital to help us know what our fundraising partners and prospects want to see. It assists us in refining our message and giving them what they need.

Information is a Two-Way Street

Today’s donors are much more sophisticated than they were even a decade ago. Of course, the vast amounts of information we have available at our fingertips has helped this happen. Major donors have been doing their due diligence on organizations for years and providing feedback, but smaller donors are also looking to see if the causes they support are demonstrating impact. There’s also a much deeper dialogue happening with general gift donors. We’ve all seen how relationships on social media have helped causes around the world raise money.

Information has become a two-way street. The first thing schools, churches, civic groups or charities should do is demonstrate and speak about their impact. This helps your donors understand how you’re doing. It provides them information and something to react to when you ask them for their insights.

  • Donors want to see robust measurements. They’re looking for more than simply qualitative information. They want to know cold, hard facts about your organization.
  • Donors want to see that charities are not doing the same old thing. They’re looking for innovators.
  • Donors want to support nonprofits that are transparent.
  • Donors are looking for your organization to give them the information wherever and whenever they want to see it. Charities can no longer rely on providing information on their schedule. They have to be everywhere their donors are, such as social media, events, etc.

When you build a solid two-way relationship with donors, you can then receive more concrete and pertinent information from them. The relationship should go beyond the superficial and provide both parties a meaningful dialogue.

Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download) – Free Digital Download at

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.

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How Nonprofits Can Overcome the Sustainability Challenge

I’ve been talking about it for years. Nonprofits are great, but I think people who begin or work for these organizations need to understand two things:

  1. Nonprofits are a business. The fundamental difference between a for-profit business and nonprofit is that nonprofits are tax exempt.
  2. You can’t start or continue an organization on a wish and a prayer. Sustainability is crucial to being able to accomplish your mission.

Nonprofit Business ModelOne of the things I always remind people about with nonprofits is that the 501(c)(3) designation is for taxes. I think a lot of individuals in the social sector, such as people who volunteer, donate or even work for nonprofits, sometimes have a misunderstanding about a nonprofit business model.

Unlike a for-profit business which takes its profits and disburses it to its shareholders (even small businesses), a nonprofit “reinvests” it back into the nonprofit. Any surplus revenue is supposed to go toward the mission; meaning, it’s okay for nonprofits to make more revenue than their operating expenses. I think that’s a point that sometimes gets lost on people, especially board members. Nonprofits can make a profit, but when they do, it has to go back to the social cause. We’ve got to stop starving nonprofits.

The primary thing to remember is that a “nonprofit” status is an IRS tax exemption given to the organization so it can accomplish its social mission.

Sustainability Has to be a Concern

I’ve been a businessman for a long time and even as a social entrepreneur, I’m always looking at sustainability. I have the opportunity to work with nonprofits each day, and when I speak to some executive directors, they’re focused on the mission, they complain about not having enough money (always), but they don’t plan for sustainability. Or, they’ll tell me that they keep on trying to get the board to work on a sustainability plan, but it just doesn’t happen.

Sustainability is not something that comes out of nowhere. For any for-profit or nonprofit endeavor, there’s got to be planning to become sustainable. One of the reasons I think there’s so much churn of professional fundraisers is because there are unrealistic expectations. Fundraisers aren’t magicians, and they don’t come to organizations carrying a contact list of high-end donors that will rain dollar bills on nonprofits. They don’t shop around their contacts, and if they did, they’d be going against the ethical principles of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Strategies to Become Sustainable

  1. Operate your nonprofit business well. Let’s face it; there are differences between nonprofits and for-profit businesses. The biggest contrast between is that profit is not the motivating factor for nonprofits-social change is the core of the work. However, executing all the work should come from a position of excellence. Programs, operations, and financial sustainability should always be viewed from a lens that seeks to be the absolute best.
  2. Stop chasing money. It may be counterintuitive, but you have to be smart about the money you’re chasing. You can’t be all things to all people and all donors. That means you have to be smart about how to raise funds. Create a development plan about who you’re going to approach and why. Are donor interests and past giving history aligned with your work? If not, look elsewhere. It takes too much time and effort to raise money. Be smart in how you approach the task.
  3. Not your father’s charity. Times have changed. You don’t want to think and run your charity with 20th Century thinking. Those days are done. Organizations that are growing and becoming sustainable are those that are adapting to change, innovating and moving with the times. Change happens at an unprecedented pace these days. We’re in a new era, and it’s important to be flexible and adapt to the new environment.

Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” – Free Digital Download at

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.

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7 Ways to Use Social Media to Advance Your Career

In 2015, CareerBuilder did their annual social media survey and found that 35 percent of hiring managers were less likely to interview a candidate if they couldn’t find them online. And since social media is a part of most of our lives, you have to assume that will only increase in the years ahead, especially as more Millennials become managers.

What follows are some tips and strategies to help you advance your career with social media.

  1. Change Happens

As you have career successes, make sure to post them across your social media platforms, and of course, certainly on LinkedIn. I’ve seen people on my feeds show their day-to-day work successes. There’s no need for a heavy sell. No one wants that, and it’s a quick turn-off; just post some fun stuff on something cool. Additionally, if you move to a new position or get promoted, make sure all of your social media profiles are updated.

  1. Grow Your Network

Social media is social networking. Social networking by definition means you have to be social. Engage with people. Drop your contacts an email now and then to check in or ask them for some career advice. Keep your contacts always warm. I am a huge believer in picking up the phone, so make it a point to go through your social media friends and connect with people. You never know who has the next opportunity for you.

  1. Use Your Real Name

Nicknames are fine, and I know that many people use them on social media, but if you’re looking to advance your career, make it a point to have an account using your real name so a potential hiring manager can find you. Some people have two accounts within their social media, especially Facebook (which by the way doesn’t look favorably on it, but it can be done). If you want to use a nickname and spend time sharing your political views, keep that account for your close friends and family. Use your real name for posting content any employer doing a search using your name can find.

  1. Be True to You

Companies are looking to hire people who align with their business culture. So, when you’re using a profile picture, make it a point to let your personality shine through. Smile and look relaxed. If you’re an artist or looking to work in a cool start-up, look the part in your social media profile. Be who you are in your picture, or at least show your dynamic business side.

  1. Follow Company Pages

An excellent way to learn more about companies or organizations you might want to work for is to follow their pages. And, if there’s a business of particular interest to you-comment and engage with people within the organization. Show your expertise in your particular field. When you post comments, make sure they’re thoughtful. Keep doing it consistently, and people will notice it within the company and outside of it.

  1. #Jobs

Unfortunately, social media is full of spam. But you can still use #jobs with another keyword to find opportunities. You’ll have to do some sifting, but you’re able to find thoughts leaders in the field at the very least, if not a job posting.

  1. Join Groups

Social media has broken down walls and borders. Use it to meet people. Participate in a group in your particular industry or one that you want to enter. You don’t need more than a handful of groups. Make sure they’re large or active. After you join, post and comment within the group. It doesn’t take long for people within the group to notice who the thought leaders are (including you) and you’ll be getting invitations to connect and chat offline.

Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Be Bold, Dominate and Succeed in Marketing For Today’s Digital World On A Limited Budget” – Free Digital Download at

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.

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