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nonprofit strategic planning

What Change Does Your Nonprofit Seek?

Theory of ChangeWhat I love best about my job is opening nonprofit leaders to new and bigger possibilities. Last week was a busy one. I was in Phoenix for part of the week speaking at the Planned Giving Roundtable Conference and then I flew to New York to lead a board retreat at the National Guild for Community Arts Education.

When I am speaking to or leading a group, I love the moment when they move from discouraged, exhausted or burned-out, to energized by new ways of thinking.

At the Planned Giving Roundtable I delivered a keynote address about the power of a theory of change. A theory of change is such an incredible tool for helping a nonprofit articulate what value they provide the community. And once you have articulated that value, a theory of change is a jumping off point to:

  • Chart a strategic direction, which guides the action of the organization and focuses limited resources
  • Prove the results the organization is achieving, which allows the nonprofit to,
  • Attract more support, leading to the holy grail in the nonprofit sector,
  • Sustainable Community Change

So the theory of change serves as the fundamental building block in making that process happen, like this:

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Because the theory of change is so instrumental, I believe that every nonprofit organization that is working toward social change should have one. Without a theory of change, you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish, how you will get there, or whether you have accomplished it, and you certainly won’t attract the funding necessary to get there.

So once I (hopefully) convinced the group in Phoenix about the importance of a theory of change, I flew to New York City to help the board and staff of the National Guild for Community Arts Education actually develop their own theory of change.

It was so exciting to see the group work together to articulate how their organization puts community resources to work towards community change. It’s not easy to come to agreement about exactly what change an organization is working towards, which is why I think it is important to have an outsider leading that process.

At the end of the day, board and staff were energized and excited about their evolving theory of change and how it could help them chart a new strategic direction, focus resources, and attract more support and momentum.

That is the moment I love. When people who are so passionate and working so hard for community change, can take a step back and articulate how and why they do the work that they do. Because it is in taking that big step back that you can begin to develop a strategy for bringing hoped for change to fruition.

If you’d like to have me come speak to your board, staff, conference or event about a Theory of Change, check out my Speaking page, or email

Photo Credit: Dean Morley

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Reader Question: How to Make Time for Strategy

I announced last month that I was recommitting to the Reader Question Series on the blog. I received some really great questions, thanks to all of you who submitted a question. As I read through the questions, I thought it might make sense to combine two of my new year’s resolutions (the relaunched Reader Question series and using more video on the blog) into this new series. So I’m going to start answering the Reader Questions via video. Below is my answer to this great question from a reader:

“The executive director is often so busy putting out the day-to-day fires that they lose time to work on the big strategic goals. How can an ED break the cycle of jumping from crisis to crisis?”

If you have a question you’d like me to answer in an upcoming Reader Question video, send it to with the subject heading “Reader Question.” I look forward to reading your questions. Thanks!

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Helping Nonprofits Navigate Change

Over the past few weeks I’ve started using video more often on the blog. My plan is to do even more of that. So today I’m excited to share the below video with you (click here to see the video if you are reading this in an email.) It explains how I help nonprofit organizations, of all shapes and sizes, navigate dramatic change in their organizations so that they can raise more money, engage their board, achieve their mission, and ultimately create more social change.

I have launched a Social Velocity channel on YouTube, and I plan to add additional videos and even video blog posts in the coming months. I encourage you to check it out and subscribe to the channel if you are interested.

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A Contest to Help Your Nonprofit Grow Stronger

As summer winds down, I’m starting to plan the fall lineup of Social Velocity webinars, but I need your help. I started offering monthly webinars a little over a year ago and have been amazed by their popularity. Several of the webinars sold out and had to be repeated. And all of our past webinars are recorded and available 24-7 as on demand webinars (you can see the whole list here).

And here’s where you come in. I need your help determining the content for the next round of webinars. What problems or issues do you struggle with? What would you love to learn more about? What challenges you in the worlds of raising money, strategic planning, board development, business planning, donor management, social innovation, philanthropy? What do you need direction on? I’d love to hear your ideas.

And just to show you how much I appreciate your input, I’ll award a free registration to anyone who submits an idea that turns into a Social Velocity webinar.

So send your webinar ideas to with the subject line, “Webinar Idea.” And if we turn your idea into a webinar, you will attend for free. I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

And in the meantime, be sure to check out the Getting Your Board to Raise Money webinar:

Financing Not Fundraising: Getting Your Board to Raise Money
On Demand

Here’s what some previous attendees had to say about this webinar:

“The webinar was very concrete and actionable – gave specific suggestions regarding engaging board members. This was very useful. Well done.”

“This really opened my eyes to new possibilities – thank you so much!”

This webinar will give you tactical steps for how to:

  • Set up a structure for effective board involvement in fundraising
  • Get every board member raising money
  • Create a compelling fundraising message for board to deliver
  • Develop a system for moving prospects to donors
  • Give every board member a job
  • Overcome board fear and inertia

Download Now

Photo Credit: urbanshoregirl


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Tools to Build a Stronger Nonprofit Sector

A little over a year ago I started introducing tools on the Social Velocity web site to help nonprofits, who might not be able to afford consulting services, grow their programs, create a financing strategy, revamp their board. I am blown away by how popular these tools have become.

I started Social Velocity almost four years ago because I saw a real hole in the nonprofit sector. Small and medium nonprofits working on social change lacked access to expertise and resources to strengthen and grow their solutions. The Teach for Americas of the world were building impressive organizations and replicating their solution far and wide. But they were doing so with the help of deep networks of experts and money. They were the lucky ones.

But there are equally impressive solutions housed in much smaller, less resourced nonprofit organizations that aren’t really seeing the light of day.  Because these organizations don’t know how to put a growth plan together, figure out how to finance the impact they want to have, or create a compelling ask for money to build, their solutions are not reaching as far as they could.

Social Velocity exists to help those small and medium-size nonprofits who want to be entrepreneurial, grow their programs, get their board engaged and invested, raise money to build their organization, break out of the starvation cycle.

And there are some nonprofits that are so small or so new that they aren’t ready yet for a customized solution. So our tools are there to help them start creating momentum on their own.

Our Step-by-Step Guides help a nonprofit to:

And the E-books we have developed describe:

And our Monthly Webinars describe how to find individual donors, evaluate earned income potential, create a message of impact, raise capacity capital and much more.

You can learn more about all of our tools here.

I’m committed to continuing to expand our inventory of tools so that more nonprofits can strengthen and grow their impact. So I’d love your ideas for other tools you would like to see.

Where do you struggle and where do you need guidance? Let me know the kinds of tools you would like to see in this post’s comments, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter or email.

Photo Credit: Andrew Morrell Photography

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Send Me Your Questions

I’m launching a new series on the blog today. I receive so many great comments and questions from readers on the blog. So I want to start a new regular series that answers  readers’ burning questions.

Once a month (or maybe more often depending on the response) I will pick a reader’s question to answer. It can be about anything related to nonprofits, social innovation, boards, financing, fundraising, social innovation, philanthropy, you name it. Each month I’ll pick the most interesting question and write a blog post response to it.

If you have a burning question that you would like me to write about, send me an email at, send me a Tweet at @nedgington, or post it on the Social Velocity Facebook page.

And as an incentive, the person whose question is selected for the first month’s post in the series will receive a free copy of my e-book, “10 Traits of a Groundbreaking Nonprofit Board

So start sending me your questions. I can’t wait to read them!

Photo Credit: e-magic

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A New Strategy for Nonprofit Financing in 2012

If you are serious about finding a way out of the nonprofit starvation cycle in this new year, you need a clear plan to get there. It amazes me how many nonprofits think that they can raise enough money through disjointed activities and hope. The only way you can raise the money it will take to accomplish your goals is to get strategic. And that means you need a strategic financing plan. Our Financing Not Fundraising webinar “Creating a Financing Plan” can help you do just that.

This webinar is part of our ongoing Financing Not Fundraising webinar series. Based on the popular Financing Not Fundraising blog series, the monthly webinar series breaks down this new approach to finding enough money to achieve a nonprofit’s mission into the steps necessary to get there. You can learn more about all of the upcoming webinars in this monthly series here.

A nonprofit financing plan is different that a typical nonprofit fundraising plan for many reasons. Here is how they differ:

  • A fundraising plan sets goals only for private revenue streams (foundation grants, individual gifts), but a financing plan includes goals for all money flowing to the organization (government grants, earned income, etc).
  • A fundraising plan’s dollar goals are based on what the nonprofit thinks it can raise, but a financing plan’s dollar goals are based on what the nonprofit needs in order to meet the goals of their organization’s strategic plan.
  • A fundraising plan is created only by the fundraising staff with no input or knowledge from the rest of the organization, but a financing plan is created with the whole organization’s input (board and staff) and is fully integrated into the organization’s overall strategic plan.
  • A fundraising plan only includes activities that raise money for programs, but a financing plan includes strategies for raising infrastructure dollars as well.

This “Creating a Financing Plan” webinar will help nonprofit leaders break down the steps of creating a financing plan. Webinar participants will think through how to:

  • Set goals for ALL revenue streams flowing to the organization
  • Tie their financing plan to their organization strategic plan
  • Determine the infrastructure dollars they need to raise
  • Create tactical steps to make the plan a reality, with activities, deliverables, people responsible, timeline
  • Divide tasks by staff and board members
  • Develop ways to monitor the plan going forward

Financing Not Fundraising: Creating a Financing Plan
On Demand

Download Now

Photo Credit: kolix

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10 Most Popular Posts of 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, I wanted to provide a list of the ten most popular Social Velocity blog posts this year. Then I’m taking a break from the blog until January.

I hope you all find time over the holidays to relax, unwind and spend time with friends and family. Thank you all for reading and contributing to the Social Velocity blog this year. I really appreciate all of my readers and look forward to talking with you in the new year. Happy Holidays!

The 10 most popular Social Velocity blog posts of 2011 were:

  1. 5 Lies to Stop Telling Donors
  2. The Financing Not Fundraising Blog Series
  3. 10 Great Social Innovation Reads: November
  4. The Problem with Strategic Planning
  5. 5 Nonprofit Trends to Watch in 2011
  6. 4 Things Every Nonprofit Needs
  7. What is Social Innovation?
  8. A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Nonprofit Financing Plan
  9. 7 Things Board Members Can Do to Raise More Money
  10. Why Nonprofit Overhead is Destructive

Photo Credit: Charline Tetiyevsky

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