The Secret Those Top 10 Lists Don’t Tell You: Change Starts With YOU. | npENGAGE

The Secret Those Top 10 Lists Don’t Tell You: Change Starts With YOU.

By on Jun 26, 2014


Recently, I spoke at the Digital Leap Conference about the top 10 things organizations can do to take their online fundraising from good to great. I know what you’re already thinking, not another list!

This list is different, I promise. As I was developing my advice, I asked myself “where does change really start?“and that lead me to Jim Collin’s book Good to Great.

Dramatic results do not come from dramatic process – not if you want them to last, anyway.- Jim Collin

I realized a long time ago that long-term success does not happen unless your organization is willing and ready to change its culture. If you want to create fundamental change, you need to look at the way you do business today.

While tactics are important, that’s not where the magic happens when you’re going from good to great. If you want to increase revenue, grow your followers, retain donors, and see better online engagement, the change starts with you.

This is the piece that is missing from all the lists and webinars. You must first shift your organization’s priorities and change the culture, and then success will follow.

With that in mind, let’s begin.

1. Analyze your results

Like a GPS, you need to know where you’re starting to determine where you’re going next.

Take a look at the past 2-3 years of online results. Everything from your dollars raised and campaigns run to email open rates and growth on social media. Once you know the hard numbers conduct a SWOT analysis.

Then, have a meeting with everyone involved. This is the time to break down silos, invite all stakeholders from the CEO and DoD to the staff that manages your social media and online presence. If people feel like they have a stake in the program’s success, they’re more likely to put the work into it. In this meeting you should discuss the hard facts and the results from the analysis.

Let the analysis be the driving force of your change.

2. Make a ‘stop-doing’ list

After 13 years working in nonprofits I can say this with confidence, sometimes we get in our own way.

There are things we are doing that just need to stop –  that 10 year old event that is barely making money, the annual report that takes months to create but no one reads – just stop. The same holds true online. For example, social media is important, but only if you have the time to commit to doing it right. If your organization is on 8 social media sites, but only investing and seeing growth on 3, then get off the other 5.

You can always go back, but for now focus on the tactics and strategies that are important to the plan and have potential to grow.

3. Invest in people

Happy employees are productive employees and investing in the team will help you find lasting success.

The investment is twofold – organizations need to invest in staff training and professional development. Training focuses on today – what does the person need to do their job right now? Professional development focuses on tomorrow –  a combination of training, mentoring, and enlightenment that harnesses the power of the person and what they will become.

Quite simply, as the sophistication of your online and development efforts grow, you need to invest in a team that will grow with it.

4. Be ready for a ‘hot damn’ moment.

Collins called these ‘good luck moments’. Whatever name you give it, it’s the opportunity that comes across your desk that you can leverage to raise awareness, funds, and interest in your mission. Once a smart, decisive plan is put into place, stakeholders have buy-in, the organization is focused on the right activities and the team is on course, your organization can take advantage of these moments whenever they strike.

What’s the next step in going from good to great online? Those are tactics like implementing a multi-message welcome series or creating a gratitude with attitude strategy. But before you get there, the plan must come first.

To find that elusive long term success, organizations need a plan based on concrete data and smart decisions that’s implemented by talented people with vision.

Be great by choice, not by chance.

  • For help analyzing your results, use the Blackbaud Index to see how you’re performing – the US and Canada Indexes are available to benchmark your online and general fundraising results.
  • When conducting your SWOT analysis, use the Blackbaud Generational Giving Reports (US and Canada) to identify threats and opportunities for better online communications and engagement.

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Danielle Johnson-Vermenton, CFRE, is the Director, Nonprofit Strategy at PMX Agency and is often called to present at events like Digital Leap, AFP Planet Philanthropy and BBCON.  Prior to PMX Agency, Danielle worked in nonprofit technology at Blackbaud for 7 years and for 13 years with boots on the ground in roles such as director of individual giving at Boys & Girls Clubs, leadership giving manager at the Red Cross and director of development at HUGS for Kids. Danielle’s passion is inspiring nonprofits to have a plan for today with a grand vision for tomorrow. You can follow Danielle @DJVermenton and on Facebook at

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