personal development

Are You Setting Your Development Department Up to Fail?

There is a bit of a double-standard in the nonprofit community that I often see. On one hand, “marketing” is usually treated like it’s a dirty word. It equates to greedy, and not worthy of their cause. A nonprofit is a nonprofit because it doesn’t have to do any marketing, right?

On the other hand, there usually comes a point when nonprofit leaders realize, for better or for worse, that they do need to take a second look at this whole marketing thing, and it becomes more important—or even a necessary evil.

And that’s when it happens. All of these sudden, the poor development staff who have been told to look at marketing one way, suddenly find themselves in charge of it. No training, no resources, just figure it out and start doing it.

This needs to change. Why? If you don’t change your mindset, as well as provide budget and resources for your fundraising staff, you’re setting them up to fail.

Are You Setting Your Development Department Up to Fail?

Remind Me, What’s Marketing Again?

As I stated on this blog almost two years ago, marketing is simply the process that creates a relationship between creator and consumer. It includes the creation, promotion, selling, and distribution of "your thing," whatever that may be. (ex: product, service, ministry, outreach, etc.)

Obviously, this gets slightly more complex with social impact organizations because you have two audiences, the people who support your work and the people who benefit from your work. For the purposes of this post, we’ll just refer to those who make your work possible. If you’re a nonprofit who is also a social enterprise, the term “customer” may still apply. If you’re a more traditional nonprofit, substitute “donor.”

Essentially, marketing is the way people find out about your mission (ex: word-of-mouth, email, social media, website, etc). That’s not so gross, right?

You already know those things have to happen, or are happening right now, so guess what? You’re a marketer. It’s kinda like being a poet when you didn’t even know it. ;)

Now, if we agree on those things, let’s talk about where the breakdown occurs.

Why Development and Marketing Are Two, Different Areas

“Marketing” and “development” aren’t the same words for good reason. Yes, the absolutely have some overlap, but they often require a different mindset and skill set. That’s where nonprofits can easily run into trouble.

According to Wikipedia, a site which I couldn’t live without, “The role of a development director is to develop and implement a strategic plan to raise vital funds for their organization in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner.” Those last two phrases probably made you cringe, roll your eyes, or nod along—perhaps all three. #nopressure

But, if you’re tracking with me, you probably see that, in reality, marketing and development are actually two sides of the same coin. That’s good news! Both roles have the same result: Bring in money for the organization. However, the way that happens can look different.

The problem here is that, once a nonprofit decides marketing is a curiosity or an even an essential part of growth, they might expect their development person or team to either know how to do it or figure out it out for themselves. It’s like being thrown in the deep end of a pool with no life vest. And, worse still, when the marketing “fails,” there may be a determination that marketing is bad, marketing doesn’t work, or this person can’t do their job.

No, no, no. That’s where I want you to help me change things. And together, we can.

From conversations with friends, clients, and my interns, it still seems that you can graduate with a degree in nonprofit management, or something similar, and receive LITTLE TO NO marketing training. Face palm. I think this is a complete injustice and flaw in the education system, if this is true.

Do you know why? Innovation and longevity.

Nonprofits have the benefit of relying on donations and grants, if they want to. That’s a critical distinction for sure. BUT, they don’t have to rely solely on donations and grants. That’s where good marketing comes in.

By being able to figure out the marketing piece of your organization, you open up more opportunities. You can utilize the aspects of the business world, and apply them to your cause. I think this is why the social enterprise model is so exciting. It’s the perfect intersection of commerce and cause.

And, whether you choose to take the social enterprise path or not, you can still use marketing to your advantage. Many nonprofits to not have a solid content strategy, for example. They have amazing stories to tell but don’t share them well. They only communicate with donors when they need something. They mean to post on social media, send an email, set a meeting, but, but, but….

There are millions of nonprofits in the world, all competing for money and resources. And, all things being equal, I think marketing separates one from the pack. So, remove celebrity spokespeople, millionaire donors, and some of those other wish list items, and marketing is what great nonprofits do well. We’ve talked about Charity:Water on this blog before, and with good reason. Outside of a large personal network, a marketing ad campaign helped put them on the map.

Thinking through the lens of marketing creates a shift. Communication goes from nice-to-do to need-to-do, and donors take notice. One-time donors can become repeat donors. Tribes increase. Awareness grows. More money can be brought in to help programs and services increase. MORE GOOD CAN BE DONE! Isn’t that worth embracing marketing? I think so.

Let’s talk about how.

DIY Marketing

I’m not naive enough to think that nonprofit leaders will read this post, and immediately begin advertising for a marketing staffer. I know that’s not always an option. In fact, most of my clients only have one or two people dedicated to fundraising. And, for some, the nonprofit leader is also a solopreneur, handling development (and everything else) as well. It takes time and money to grow and scale, but with help, you can get there.

The first step is to actually give your development person a marketing budget. Whether this is $5 or $5,000, it’s important that it exists. This is especially essential if your development staff has no marketing knowledge or experience. You can’t expect them to know what the rest of us took years to learn.

So, DIY resources could include books, blogs (like this one!), courses, events, and the like. It’s a place where they can get the information they need to do their job better. It might even be someone like a mentor.

Also, give them time on your dime to learn. Don’t expect that they learn how to be a great marketer in their evenings or on the weekend.

I would even take this one step further and actually help them find good resources. Take an hour or so of your time to search or ask for recommendations, and then pass them along. Be proactive in making sure they have a quality marketing education, and show them that you’re there to support them.

You work for a cause, after all, so demonstrate that you care and are committed to seeing them succeed. And, if you’re the boss, plan for a bigger marketing budget next year.

Hybrid Marketing

Let’s say you’ve got more than a few bucks in your marketing budget, and you’re willing to bring in some help. Great! You’re in a very good place.

Additional help could look like a one-time, ongoing, or once-in-a-while contractor, coach, or consultant, for example. Evaluate not just your budget, but the return on investment from a person who fits this need. Yes, it could be a sticker shock if you aren’t used to working with these folks, but how will they pay off in the long run? Their expertise may just take your organization or employee to the next level. Plus, you only have so much time on your hands. What if someone else can do a better job faster?

This is obviously where people like me fit in. I started my business to fill a need that I commonly saw as a previous employee of several nonprofits, as well as a long-time volunteer. I was regularly asked marketing and communications questions by friends and staff of nonprofits and social enterprises. They had questions, and I was happy to answer. So, when I was leaving my old job, I asked if the would be willing to pay me for project work so that I could help them grow. Those people, including the organization that I was a long-time volunteer with, all became my first clients. And many of them have become repeat clients.

For you, it might be graphic design help to make your marketing look sharp. It could be a coaching program that teaches your development staff how to also be marketers. It could be a social media manager who takes that responsibility off their plate.

One of the fun things that I love about being a consultant, and why I hire them myself, is that they see everything with fresh eyes. You are in the day-to-day of your work, and sometimes, all it takes is an outside perspective and few tweaks to get you on a better track.

If you’ve got a little more money to work with, give this avenue a shot. If you’re nervous, start with a small project. See how you can make this approach work for you.

Hire a Marketing Person

So, obviously, it takes more of a significant amount of money and commitment to hire a part-time or full-time marketing person. But if you’re determine to make marketing work for your nonprofit, this might be the right choice for you.

If you don’t have it already, I’d encourage you to write out the job description for your development director or staff. Is it more than they can handle? Does it include items they’ve never been trained for, and no resources to equip them? This is often the case. If it is, something needs to change.

I know you don’t intentionally want to set up your development department to fail. But I wouldn’t be addressing it on this blog if this weren’t a common issue. What can you do differently?

Leaders, I cannot tell you how often I see comments about this stuff in Facebook Groups and hear about it in conversations. This kind of thing puts so much pressure and burden on your employees, and will lead to burnout and frustration, which won’t serve you, your organization, or your cause well.

It’s a new year, so it’s a great time to make the shift. Set your development staff up to succeed. And make marketing an intentional part of your communication process. I don’t think you’ll regret it.



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“Marketing” and “development” aren’t the same words for good reason. Yes, the absolutely have some overlap, but they often require a different mindset and skill set. That’s where nonprofits can easily run into trouble.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


How to Easily Invest in Yourself and Your Organization

This past weekend I attended the Tribe Conference, a gathering primarily for writers. It was a really terrific event, and while all the speakers did a wonderful job, a few of them made points that struck me more deeply. I'm sure you can relate.

One of those was Dan Miller, an enormously successful speaker and author, who's session was about the importance of investing in yourself. In his talk, he cited Brian Tracy's advice, which is to invest 3% of your income on personal growth and development, and then to bump it up to 5% once you pass $50,000.

Could you do that? Investing in myself has been a high priority of mine for quite a while now, but I was surprised to see how many people around me didn't seem to have a personal investment plan, despite attending this event. I don't want this for you. I want you to prioritize it, despite the actual (and perceived) costs. 

How to Invest in Yourself and Your Organization

Why Invest in Yourself and Your Organization?

First of all, I'm not just talking about throwing money at the latest software, or buying fancy computers, or getting team t-shirts, though that would be snazzy. I'm talking about the "deeper" investments for personal and professional growth, which leads to added value and growth for your organization.

When you invest in yourself personally, you knowingly—and unknowingly—apply that new knowledge and experience everywhere around you. So, even then, you're benefitting your organization. And when you invest in yourself for your job, or on behalf of your organization, your directly applying that new knowledge to your role and your cause. Intentionally investing in yourself also often provides renewed energy, focus, determination, know-how, and purpose. So, why not get on board?

Invest in Micro-Learning

Mico-learning is a fancy, hyphenated word I made up for a category that includes books, podcasts, webinars, videos, email lists, and those kinds of things—honestly, because I wasn't sure what else to call it! ;) But this includes anything that is focused, small, and easily consumable. These examples are what the majority of us would turn to first as a learning opportunity, or personal investment. And, of course, most of these items are free, or can be acquired cheaply, so it's an easy sell.

In fact, because they're all around you, my advice would be to take advantage of these kinds of media weekly, if not more frequently. People who are always learning and trying to better themselves in some way are likely to be the ones that make a bigger difference, are valued more at their organizations, lead others more successfully, and generally do better overall. You may have even heard the phrases "leaders are readers" or "leaders are learners." It's true! I guarantee the people you most admire, from business leaders to celebrities, invest in themselves in these ways.

Invest in Live Events

In the world we now live in, there are opportunities at every turn to watch events online, participate in webinars, and connect digitally with influencers and peers. However, there is still no replacement for attending in-person. It's hard to replicate that feeling of a live event. It's more invigorating and motivating. And the connections made there are stronger than they would be online. 

I was reminded of that this past weekend. Right now, I probably watch a webinar each week, and I also belong to a membership site with monthly video trainings and a Facebook group. But as I sat there with a group of peers, took notes in a real notebook, had conversations after each session, and shared meals with others who are trying to grow, I remembered, yet again, that there is just no substitute. 

Depending on your budget, I understand this could be a large financial commitment. Most one-day events are around $100 or less, but multi-day events could easily be several hundred to several thousand, plus travel. And that's not always feasible. But I would highly encourage you to plan for at least one in-person conference each year. You won't regret it!

Invest in Down Time

I'll let you define "down time" for yourself since we're all a bit different. Some of us are extroverts and some of us are introverts. We have difference preferences, and things that light us up. For me, this looks like a day of binge-watching Netflix, coffee with a friend, a few hours at the movies, or if I'm really lucky, a trip. Can you tell that I'm an introvert? ;)

But the point is to find something that will renew your energy and breathe life back into your spirit. It's vital to your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. And, most importantly, don't wait until burnout. Do it regularly. Maybe making consistent time comes only in small increments, like 30 minutes or an hour each week. That's totally fine. See what works for you, and what you can manage, without rescheduling or pushing it back until you theoretically have "more time."

I also think, however, that you should schedule larger blocks of time (like several days) on an annual basis. Call it a vacation, call it a personal retreat, or call it your "me time." It doesn't matter what you call it, only that you take it.

Investing in yourself, and in turn, your organization, will be worth far more in the end than what the actual costs were. In my opinion, personal growth and investment is priceless. See if you can take the first step this week, even if it's just making a plan for your action steps! Once you get in a rhythm with it, you'll wonder why you didn't start sooner.

(PSST—If you'd like to read all of my notes from the Tribe Conference, you can do that here on my personal blog.)


A Limited-Time Opportunity

Looking for a terrific opportunity to invest in yourself and your organization right now—and get a great deal? Then check out One Woman Shop's Solopreneur Success Bundle. Available through this Friday, September 22nd, at 11:59 p.m., this bundle contains $1,724 worth of products, courses, and tools for only $99!

In it, you'll find information covering:

  • Building your own virtual assistant

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  • Photography and design

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  • E-course ideas

  • Growing an email list

  • Hashtags and social media

  • Dealing with your Inbox

  • Interviewing and hiring

  • Legal guidance

  • Productivity

  • Positioning

  • SEO

  • Sales pages

  • AND MORE!

I'm an affiliate for this bundle, but this deal is so good, I snatched it up myself in the first few hours it was available! I can't wait to sort through everything, and I know it will be worth the money.

In fact, if any of the topics above sound good to you, then you'd probably pay close to $100 (or more) for a single course on that subject. So, why not jump on this bundle and get way more bang for your buck!

What are you waiting for? Click here or the banner below for more details!



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Investing in yourself, and in turn, your organization, will be worth far more in the end than what the actual costs were. In my opinion, personal growth and investment is priceless.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


3 Tips for Finding a Personal Mentor

Ever wish you could borrow from someone's experience? 

Would you like to bounce ideas off of someone with greater expertise?

Do you need feedback from a professional in your field?

Could you use some encouragement and support from someone who's "been there?"

3 Tips for Finding a Personal Mentor

These are the kind of perks you get by having a mentor. (Plus, so much more!)

It really doesn't matter what kind of role you fill at your organization. Anyone from the founder to the part-time assistant can benefit from a mentor, because if you care about what you do (and I know you do!), you want to do it better.

I've had the benefit of having four official mentors during my life. The first two were spiritual mentors. The third is still currently my all-around mentor. And the fourth is new. She serves as a business mentor since launching Signify was a completely new endeavor with a lot of unique, and exciting, challenges.

My guess is that one of these might be of interest to you as well. I know many of us are in Facebook Groups, signed up for online courses, and attend networking groups because we want to learn from successful people. And whether you want to entirely emulate them or just pick up a few pointers in a specific area, mentors are one of the best ways to make this happen. And guess what—the rules are up to the two of you!

I wanted to share this guest post with you because I've been deeply appreciative of having caring mentors over the years, and I've also been asked about how I found my mentors. I'd love for you to have the same opportunity, whether it comes along naturally, or you give it a little nudge.

Read My 3 Tips for Finding a Personal Mentor.

I also talk extensively about mentors here:

The Key to Your Success May Be Staring You In The Face—Literally (blog post)

How to Find a Mentor When You’re a Freelancer or Entrepreneur (interview by The Penny Hoarder)

Let me know how it goes!

PS: I use the term "personal" mentor just to define a one-on-one relationship, not the type of mentoring. It's up to you to decide!



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It really doesn't matter what kind of role you fill at your organization. Anyone from the founder to the part-time assistant can benefit from a mentor, because if you care about what you do (and I know you do!), you want to do it better.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


5 Essential TED Talks for Social Enterprise Leaders

Last week, I shared 5 Must-See TED Talks for Nonprofit Leaders, but as this blog is devoted to both for- and non-profit organizations driven by a cause, I wanted to give equal time to my social enterprise peeps. 

While both traditional businesses and nonprofits have been around for a long time, social enterprises are still an emerging model. But, like you, I hope and believe that they are the future of business. Make money, and do good—at the same time? Yes, please! I can't wait to see what happens next in this movement.

And because I want you to also have fun and be successful, here are five TED Talks that I think will encourage social enterprise leaders, and employees, on their way to making a meaningful impact.

(PS: You don't have to work at a social enterprise to like them!)

5 Essential TED Talks for Social Enterprises

1. Tony Robbins: Why we do what we do

This speech will help you find, or remember, why you lead or work at a social enterprise. It's educational and motivational. It can be difficult to remember your "why" when funds are low, days are spent combing through email, you feel unappreciated or distracted, meetings never seem to end, or you're just caught up in the day-to-day of work. Sometimes we remember the "why" all on our own, and sometimes it takes someone to intervene. If you need the latter, use this talk. 

2. Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius

Whether you've reached your career-defining moment or not, you'll be encouraged by her talk. This is evidently the prelude to her latest, lovely memoir, Big Magic, and an opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief. I believe many social entrepreneurs are "feelers" because they place the mission first. They're all about the business of improving lives, and while that can be attributed to the head, I think it's more likely attributed to the heart. Elizabeth gives us a way to deal with success, failure, and more importantly, the everyday in-between. I love her refrain to "keep showing up," and think you will too.

3. Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

In this funny, 12-minute video Shawn will back up your theory that happy employees are better employees. And he reveals some incredibly interesting research that shows you how to think differently about success, because your views on success impact not only your happiness, but the happiness of those around you. Because these are two things that matter to each of us, I hope you'll pay attention. He's challenging us to create a new reality. Are you up for it?

4. Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion

If you've ever received any criticism, skepticism, strange looks, odd comments, or even raised eyebrows when you tell people about your work, you'll be interested in this talk. Though she tells a number of stories, I believe the theme of legacy is what binds them together. As a social entrepreneur, you're all about creating a better future, not just for yourself, but for others who need a partner or helping hand to make it so. Your work is designed to improve lives now, and for generations. You'll identify with her journey as you strive to live your own life of immersion.

5. Ricardo Semler: How to run a company with (almost) no rules

In some ways, a social enterprise is a hybrid between a traditional business and a nonprofit. This offers a lot of gifts, and a few challenges. And the social enterprises I know have two things in common. First, they all (obviously) choose to not to do business as usual. They want a more innovative environment, and want to run things a little differently. Second, there are usually at least a few people who have had more traditional business jobs, and therefore, bring that experience (or baggage) to the enterprise. Given these two things, creating a compelling office culture is vital in helping differentiate your organization and instill loyalty to your mission. In this talk, Ricardo is definitely a disruptor to traditional office culture. He may give you some ideas you want to explore, and maybe even a few you prefer to ignore. The point? You get to decide because it's your organization! 

6. BONUS: Richard St. John: Success is a continuous journey

Part cautionary tale and part business lecture, this four-minute video will remind you to stay focused on why you started your organization: for your customers and the people your work benefits. Success is relative, but hopefully not fleeting. And second chances are available to all of us.

By the way, I spent the better part of a day watching talk after talk to bring you five+ that I thought would help you be a better social entrepreneur. Whew—grueling work, but I'm here for you! Did I miss any of your favorites?



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5 Essential TED Talks for Social Enterprise Leaders

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


5 Must-See TED Talks for Nonprofit Leaders

TED Talks are a little like Lay's potato chips—it's hard to just watch one. Delivered to you in just 15 minutes, these gems are packed full of inspiration and education. But with thousands of videos now on their site, navigating them to find applicable content can be a little challenging. So, I've selected just five that will be of interest to nonprofit leaders, employees, and volunteers. Take a long lunch break and consider this your ongoing education curriculum.

(PS: You don't have to be at a nonprofit to enjoy them!)

5 Must-See TED Talks for Nonprofit Leaders, Employees, and Volunteers

1. Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong

A terrific watch for those working and serving at nonprofits. It will take a LOT of effort to turn this ship, but there are definitely some ideas worth chasing. You may not agree with everything he has to say, but he makes some incredible points to think about regarding hiring and fundraising. Even if you aren't the one in charge of making these types of decision, see what your influence can do to push the envelope a bit.

2. Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

Some of you may have already heard of his immensely popular book, Start With Why, which came after this talk. Nonprofit folks may initially dismiss this lesson, believing that the "why" is already front-and-center at their organization. But I encourage you to watch it, and then take a look at your website, emails, newsletters, and marketing to see if you've made a slight shift from "why" to "what." I see many charities make this mistake.

3. Bryan Stevenson: We need to talk about an injustice

Regardless of whether or not you agree with his work, Bryan does a brilliant job of helping the audience find common ground with his subject matter, and relating that to a topic every human struggles with at some point: identity. He also uses only a few statistics to make his point. Figure out how you incorporate this approach at your next presentation and see if it works for you too.

By the way, if you do like the talk, his book is remarkable as well.

4. Angela Lee Duckworth: Grit: The power of passion and perseverance

This talk should be an encouraging one for all of us. The lessons she derives from her students hold true for adults as well. It's easy for you to think that you don't have the support, resources, money, or ______ (fill in the blank) to move your mission forward. But this speech is a good reminder that your grit can help determine your success as well.

5. Melinda Gates: What nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola

I love the fact that she applies corporate tactics to the nonprofit model. I believe more people should be doing this same thing. Nonprofits have a reputation for moving more slowly than their for-profit counterparts, and resisting change, but there's no reason things can't change. While you may not be able to utilize these same ideas, I have no doubt there are other business principles that you can blend with your current process. (And don't forget, I can teach you how to improve your marketing!)

6. BONUS! Derek Sivers: How to start a movement

This fun and entertaining video is only three minutes long. It'll make you smile, and also teach you a thing or two in the process.

Okay, so those are five plus one Ted Talks that I think nonprofit leaders, employees, and volunteers should see. Did I miss one that you'd recommend? Tell me in the comments below.



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5 Must-See TED Talks for Nonprofit Leaders and Employees

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.