small business

Heart For Impact, But No Head For Finances?

Quick note: During the summer, we'll only be publishing one blog post per month as we focus on some new activities and allow you some down time without falling behind on content.

Last month I celebrated three years as a small business owner. That’s right, Signify turned three!

It’s been quite the ride! Lots of highs and lots of lows. And lots of lessons learned—many of them the hard way.

In fact, the past year in particular has been a real doozy.

I’ve heard it said that entrepreneurship is a great way to magnify both your strengths and weaknesses as an individual. I’d say that’s pretty accurate.

For me, it’s had a lot to do with money.

The Many Sides of Money

What I’m discovering is that it’s not just about making, managing, or saving money, but the mental game of money (though the other things are super important, too). But in the category of “you don’t know what you don’t know,” I don’t think I understood how I actually interacted with money on all levels, and how that influenced the daily running of Signify.

My emotions, notions, preconceived ideas, and subconscious thinking have all played out in ways that I never imagined.

You see, I’ve always been very clear with my friends, clients, and tribe that I am someone who took a skill I had and monetized it. I wasn't someone that had a head for business and numbers, and decided what to do from there.

Signify has always been a way for me to professionally support the people and causes I already supported personally.

So, in a lot of ways, I’ve been playing catchup with the mental hangups about money that I’ve had all my life. And it’s cost me both literally and figuratively. It’s also made me less confident as a small business owner. In fact, I’ve wondered many times if I’m actually cut out to do this.

The self-doubt, negative self-talk, and anxiety make it hard to serve others. It’s difficult to make an impact when you’re worried about making rent.

To quote Kanye West, “Having money’s not everything, but not having it is.”

The truth is, we need money to keep the doors open, the lights on, and to further our causes. And if you don’t develop a better relationship with money, you’ll never make the kind of progress you’d like.

By the way, that goes for whether you have a bunch of cash in the bank or not. A scarcity mindset can do just as much damage as the lack of ability to mange money. Either way you slice it, that puts your nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business in a bind that can be hard to get out of.

These are the kinds of things I’ve been wrestling with over the past year. And, though I’m still learning, I’m getting better.

Enter Shanna Skidmore

I watched her webinar in January of this year, and just knew I needed to learn from her. Why? She actually made me feel like I could learn the business and finance side of running my business.

That, my friends, is empowering.

Feeling completely unqualified to run a business is no way to run a business at all.

And, like me, many nonprofit and social enterprise founders launched their organizations because they want to make an impact. It’s not that they necessarily want to run a business. Sure, that can also have its perks, but mostly, we just want to do our good work.

However, running a business means asking for money, whether that’s through a sale or a donation. So, it’s important to not only learn to manage the money well, but truly understand its value to your organization and cause. When you can do both of those things, you can more effectively grow and scale.

This is just some of the hard and necessary work I’ve been doing this year.

If this sounds like something you need to work on as well, then join me for Shanna’s last ever masterclass this Thursday, August 8th, at 1:30 p.m. EST.

That’s right, this will be the final time she gives her behind-the-scenes peek at how she built a multi six-figure business. I’ve learned so much from her this year, so I’ll be there, and hope you’ll join me.

We are now in the latter half of 2019. Don’t let another six months or year pass before you start dealing with your own money mindset and business finances. Your cause is too important for that.

A note from Shanna

“It is possible for women to make money doing what they love, create flexible schedules so they can be present mamas and friends, decrease the clutter and chaos that comes with building a business, and trade all that in for a life-enriching business!

For the past 13 years, I’ve been helping business owners understand their finances and build profitable and sustainable businesses. It’s what I do! My journey began as a Fortune 100 Financial Advisor and morphed into starting my own management consulting firm seven years ago.

And for the last time, I’ll be teaching my free masterclass, “How I Built a Six-Figure Business.”

Wondering if I’m the right teacher for you? I am if you’re dealing with problems like:

- Hustle with no results

- Client stress (pricing, always wanting more)

- Talking to customers and donors about money

- Overwhelm!!!!!

- Inability to financially plan well

- The feeling of being poor

- Fear about what to do next

- Living paycheck to paycheck

- Stress (with money and time)

I’m not going to share some complicated MBA program, but instead, what I believe are business fundamentals. Financial principles you don’t have to be a CPA to understand. Marketing concepts you don’t have to have a degree or tech wizard to implement, and success psychology you don’t have to pay a therapist to study. 

This is all something you, me, and our entrepreneur friends are all capable of doing—with a roadmap, of course! 

Let’s do this!”


Sounds good, right? Please consider joining Shanna for her final (and free) masterclass, “How To Build a Six-Figure Business With Less Than 5,000 Followers,” on August 8th. I’ll be there, too!

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great business and financial coaches out there. And it’s important to find the people from you can learn from. However, if you've always struggled with numbers and finances, then I’d encourage you to tune in.

I’ve learned bits and pieces from other gurus in-person and online, but Shanna is one of the only people to break business and financial principles down in a way that actually makes sense to me. And that’s a huge benefit because gaining understanding gives you the confidence that you need to make bigger breakthroughs you business.

Quick Note For Nonprofits

While Shanna’s content is mostly geared for female entrepreneurs of for-profit businesses, nonprofit founders have also found success with Shanna’s methods. In fact, here’s a testimonial from Signify community member and nonprofit founder, Chantel Adams.

"Shanna’s Blueprint Model gave me clarity on not only why I’m doing the work I’m doing, but also how I'm going to move forward to make it successful.

For years, I thought my core motivator was IMPACT, but she helped me discover that my real motivator is CREATIVE EXPRESSION. All that time I wasted trying to prove that the work I did mattered, when the reality is that work that flows from your identity IS the work that truly matters.

I have more energy, ideas, and focus than ever before!”

So, you may have to do some creative thinking with some of her principles in how they relate to your nonprofit, but it can be done. And if you struggle with some of the problems above, I guarantee you’ll still find value in Shanna’s teaching.

Shanna’s a smart cookie, and has helped me in my business tremendously, so I hope you’ll give her a chance. And, really, what have you got to lose?

NOTE: Shanna’s webinar has passed, but you can watch the reply here, or if you’d like to learn from her like I have, check out The Blueprint Model. Registration is open through August 14th. NOW has never been a better time to improve your relationship with money.



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.


Your Budget: Go From Cursing to Championing

One of the reasons I love inviting guests to post on this blog is so that they can talk about topics that I probably wouldn’t address myself. And right at the top of that list is budgets! Numbers are something I always struggled with in school (while I excelled in English), so it’s better for both of us that I stick to what I’m good at.

Enter Steve Fredlund. He and I met several months ago in a Facebook Group, and when I saw that one of his areas of focus was budgeting and money management for nonprofits and small businesses, I jumped at the chance to feature his expertise.

I really loved the way Steve talks about “transformational” budgeting in this post, and think it will not only shed some light, but challenge your social impact organization to value money differently in the process.

Your Budget: Go From Cursing to Championing

BUDGET. A 6-letter swear word to many nonprofit leaders and small business owners. It’s about penny-pinching and the restricting of ability to get things done. It’s the mechanism by which a number-crunching, introverted analytic hinders team creativity. Right? 

Yes. Because most of us see it this way, this is precisely what it becomes. Consider how budget discussions and approval are communicated in your organization. For many, it sounds something like, “Well, it’s that exciting time to set the budget again,” or “Sorry, guys and gals, we have to work on the budget,” or “Let’s get the budget stuff done so we can get on to the real stuff we need to talk about.” 

Why You Need to Rethink Budgets

Budget communication both reflects AND creates culture. It gives insight into leadership perspectives on budget, which gives insight into how leaders think about budgeting as a potential tool to move the organization forward. And usually, budget communication is extremely negative or, at minimum, apathetic. But your cash flow is an asset and it is your responsibility to leverage that asset as effectively as possible in support of the overall mission and strategic priorities of your organization. Anything short of that is a suboptimal use of one of your biggest assets, and is a gap in your overall leadership. 

Your finances carry vast amounts of potential energy, just waiting to get released. Your job as a leader is to recognize the full potential energy and release it to maximize achievement of the vision and strategic priorities. I want to encourage you to shift your paradigm about finances—to recognize that great organizations are able to fully release their power and leverage it for success.


3 Budgeting Exercises for Social Impact Organizations

Here are three things you can do to increase the value of your budgeting process, while also changing your perspective about the role of finances in your nonprofit or social enterprise:

  1. Strategy-based budget.  List out all of your major strategies, goals, or initiatives. Then assign each a percentage (totaling 100%) indicating how you WISH all of your available funds were allocated. Do this without regard to your knowledge of the current budget and only consider non-fixed costs. Basically, you are saying, “This is how I wish all of our discretionary spending was allocated.” Then, take this to your finance team and ask them to complete this exercise with the actual spending; have them include a bucket somewhere for the “fixed costs,” and with all remaining expenses, have them allocate out to the same categories you defined. Compare what you find. Eventually, I encourage organizations to create budgets starting first with developing a desired allocation of resources and then building the budget; but for now, this exercise will provide insight into any major disjoints in spending. It will also help you realize how many of your expenses are fixed, to see if there is any way to move spending into discretionary.

  2. Gain outsider perspectives.  An interesting exercise is to give your current budget (or actual spending) to several people unfamiliar with your organization and ask them what they think your vision and priorities based on your budget. You can get tremendous insight from this exercise. This is similar to having new people to come into your building or office and ask what they think your priorities are based on your environment; it creates fascinating discussions.

  3. External research. It’s amazing to me that very few nonprofits and social enterprises have an understanding of how similar organizations are allocating their budgets. I ask, “How does this compare to your competitors?” or “How does this compare to similar nonprofits?” and rarely do they know. Comparing to others can provide great insights, not only for competitive advantage, but to start the conversations about how you could become more effective in your spending.

 There are many more considerations in maximizing your financial investments, and improving the perception of the role of budgeting, but these three are a good start. How you spend your money is more than just a necessary evil. It is as important as the staff you hire, connections you make, and products or services you provide. Every dollar of your revenue is an asset; are you investing it in a way that maximizes your impact or helps you best reach your goals?

Avoid the 5% Rule

When the next budget cycle comes up, consider avoiding the typical process that simply adds 5% to every budget item from last year. This is the central mistake in budgeting for impact; to start with what has been done in the past and making minor tweaks. Using the prior budget to determine the next budget is akin to starting with current policies and procedures to set next year’s strategies.

If you want a transformational budget, then realize that the budget is an “output” and not an “input.”  The budget process starts with what you are ultimately trying to do (your vision, mission, or purpose). From there, you determine your key focus areas for the next one to three years, which leads to your key strategies and, ultimately, to the execution of those strategies. It is from these decisions that the transformational budget emerges. 

Imagine running a nonprofit helping to alleviate the issue of clean water in which 20% of last year’s budget supported efforts in Rwanda and 10% supported Nepal. There are some significant political and world relief changes resulting in far less need for the organization to continue working in Rwanda. Strategically, the organization decides it needs to move staff and facilities to Nepal, but the budget setting is based on last year and the funding to both Rwanda and Nepal is increased slightly, creating a huge disjoint in strategy and funding.

This may be a ridiculous example that would not actually happen in practice, but it’s only ridiculous because of the dramatic nature of the shift. How many smaller shifts are happening every year without the budget reallocation to support it? Many cause-focused organizations know the areas they need to move focus toward, but most use a “last year plus” method for budgeting. The end result will always be a disjoint between impact and financial support.

As a social impact organization, take time to celebrate every dollar coming in. These funds are more than just “money;” they represent the opportunity to have impact. But the ball is now in your court. What are you going to do with that opportunity? The more impact you can have, the more opportunity you will attract; and conversely, the poorer you manage your opportunity, the less opportunity you will have. 


Get Excited About Budgeting

Get excited about strategizing how those funds can be used to maximize impact or profitability. Have leadership discussions that start first with your vision, mission, priorities, and strategies, considering how to optimize movement toward their achievement using your finances. Think less about budget constraints and think more about budget opportunities.

When you have a budget that is lined up with your overall strategies, it generates creativity among each budget manager to truly optimize those funds to carry out their strategies. Further, having a budget aligned with strategies creates peace of mind for leadership (and all stakeholders), knowing that all assets are working together to carry out the desired impact of the organization.

Start seeing budget and finances differently, and you will be on your way to leveraging it most effectively—to maximizing your impact; to achieving your vision.

If I can be of any assistance, feel free to give me a shout at steve@stevefredlund.com or 651.587.5435. You can find out more about me at stevefredlund.com. 


Steve Fredlund

Steve Fredlund, FSA, MBA, SWP has 30 years of experience in Fortune 500 companies in primarily financial and analytical roles, with another 10 years in nonprofit roles including staff, board, founder, executive, and volunteer. He currently does independent consulting, coaching, and speaking focusing on small businesses and nonprofits. Steve helps individuals and organizations clearly define what success means to them, and then figure out how to get there. More information is available at stevefredlund.com.

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Here are three exercises to increase the value of your budgeting process, while also changing your perspective about the role of finances in your nonprofit or social enterprise.

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.


The Most Useful Tool for Prioritizing Your Goals

Today’s inspiration comes from one of our newest interns here at Signify, Kirsten King. When she approached me about writing a blog post on this topic, I thought it was a terrific idea. I’m a big fan of not only setting goals, but regularly evaluating them.

And one of the biggest hurdles in goal-setting isn’t identifying them, but prioritizing them. After all, you only have so much time, energy, and resources at your disposal. So, you definitely want to ensure that your nonprofit or social enterprise is focused on the right targets.

The exercise Kirsten outlines below is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s also relatively simple. But the beauty is that it will give you a big picture look at your organization, and help you decide which direction to run in. Give it a try, and see your goals come to life.

The Most Useful Tool for Prioritizing Your Goals

Happy (belated) New Year!

So, you’ve established some business goals for this year, and you’re all set to tackle them. You will complete your 2019 To Do List, but it may seem a bit overwhelming right now. Often, you may be wondering where to start, how to prioritize, or where you fit in amongst your competitors and even your donors or customers. If this sounds familiar, then you may need to create or restructure your SWOT analysis.

Creating a current SWOT analysis can help pinpoint what your organization lacks, as well as what it offers. Without this assessment, you may quickly fall behind or feel left out. This could happen if you don’t know what trends are up-and-coming, what other organizations in your field are doing, the growth opportunities that are available, or you may be unable to predict what challenges are yet to come. However, knowing each of these items can give you a distinctive edge, and guide you toward both short- and long-term success.

SWOT Analysis… What’s that?

Now, if you’re wondering, “What’s a SWOT analysis?!”, don’t worry, we’ll jump right into that.  

First, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This is a genius marketing strategy—even if you’re new to marketing—because it identifies a nonprofit or social enterprises’s internal strengths and weaknesses, while also looking into the opportunities and threats that are occurring outside of the organization. (These factors you have no control over, but you may be able to use them to your advantage 😉. )

Why is a SWOT Analysis Important?

Performing a SWOT analysis can help you determine what new strategies should be implemented and what problems need to be resolved. You don’t want to waste time developing and planning a new strategy, if it doesn’t fit with the current or upcoming trends.

Having this information gives you a better understanding of what needs to be prioritized and where you stand when compared to others like you. Here’s a great video, using Starbucks as an example, if you would like to see a SWOT analysis in action.

Since business, trends, marketing, technology, and even the way you interact with your donors or customers are constantly changing, a SWOT analysis should be performed at least once or twice a year to ensure you are on the right track, or outline any changes that should be made. These can be performed solo, or with a team, board members, or key stakeholders.


Completing Your SWOT Analysis

Okay, let’s build your SWOT analysis! We’ve even created a free template to help you out.

One thing you’ll notice immediately is the simplicity of the layout. Once you dig into the items below, you may be tempted to include a lot of details and notes. But, at its heart, a SWOT analysis is just meant to give you a quick overview. Think of it as your organization at a glance, and use it to help guide you in the right direction.

Strengths are determined by the positive assets that your social impact organization owns. They may be tangible or intangible resources. Since you have control over these assets, strengths can help your organization stand out.

Strengths include:

  • Unique mission or model

  • Land

  • Location

  • Equipment

  • Copyrights/trademarks

  • Employees/volunteers

  • Funding

  • Marketing

  • Customer service

  • Relationships

Weaknesses can be defined as the characteristics of your organization that are unfavorable or may hurt you in some way. These downfalls could potentially hinder your success in both the short- and long-term. Weaknesses may be easily improved with a little more time, effort, and sometimes money.

Weaknesses include:

  • Outdated technology

  • Slow or poor communication (internal and/or external)

  • Poor signage

  • Little to no online presence

  • Unreliable cash flow

  • Lack of systems and processes

  • Cost

  • Low reputation

  • Small team with big workload

  • Low innovation

Opportunities are the external factors that can help your nonprofit or social enterprise thrive. Options here may be one-time or ongoing opportunities, so it’s especially important to note anything with fixed deadlines or limited availability that need to stay top of mind.

Opportunities include:

  • Partnerships and sponsorships

  • Participating in a current or upcoming trend (or event)

  • Government programs

  • Niche target market

  • Increased interest in your cause

  • New technologies

  • Growing population

  • Few competitors

  • New systems or processes

  • High demand

Threats are external factors that you cannot control. These negatives require quick thinking to develop new strategies.

Threats include:

  • Changes in government policies or funding

  • Uncertain economic factors

  • Aggressive competition

  • Unexpected weather

  • Rising costs

  • Increase in competition

  • Change in population

  • Negative media coverage

  • Loss of large donor, partner, or sponsor

  • Taxation

Time to Strategize!

You can start your SWOT analysis by focusing on internal strengths and weaknesses. This should be easier since you know the ins and outs of your organization.

Afterward, you can focus on external factors like your opportunities and threats. This may call for a bit of research and contemplation. But once your SWOT analysis is complete, you should have a better idea on what strategies to prioritize, implement, or refresh.

If done correctly, you’ll be able to use this analysis to create fresh, new ideas for your nonprofit or social enterprise. And remember, the assessment can always be adjusted to meet the current trends and challenges you may face.

Now, with all of this new information, how will you structure your business goals for the year ahead? Have you determined your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats yet? If not, it’s time to brainstorm new strategies that will help you develop or maintain that sustainable advantage!


Kirsten M King Marketing

Hi! I’m Kirsten M. King, and I absolutely love anything dealing with marketing, from advertising to data and everything in-between. I also love to learn and expand my knowledge on current trends and issues.

I’m currently a senior Marketing Major at Georgia State University. And I hope to take my skills and use them towards a career in project management.

Website

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Having this information gives you a better understanding of what needs to be prioritized and where you stand when compared to others like you.

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.


The Four Missing Pieces of Your Partner/Sponsor Presentation

Partnering with a small business—is it on your organization’s bucket list? It is for many small nonprofits and social enterprises. But it also seems a little elusive, doesn’t it?

First, you have to find the right potential partner. Then, you have to do a little wooing and a little schmoozing. After that, you might just secure your invitation to present your cause to the decision-makers.

It’s no small accomplishment making it this far! But finally, you’re in the room. So, what do you say?

Whether you’re seeking funding, in-kind-services, volunteers, or something else, there could be a lot riding on this meeting, both in the short and long-term. So, you certainly want it to go well.

If you’ve presented to a small business before, I’d urge you to dust off your presentation to look for the errors below. If this is your first time, consider it a head’s up.

Avoid these mistakes to have your potential partners and sponsors jumping at the chance to say, “YES!”

The 4 Missing Pieces of Your Partner-Sponsor Presentation

Missing Piece #1: Your Potential Partner

Is it possible that you’ve gone and made the whole presentation about you? That’s a common mistake.

Maybe you’re nervous, and all you can think of is you. Maybe you think you have something to prove. Maybe you want to adequately make your case. Maybe you’re just so darn excited about your organization that you can’t wait to share it.

All of those are perfectly normal, but while you’re fine-tuning your pitch, be sure to bring your potential partner or sponsor into the mix as well.

Don’t just let them see your mission. Let them see themselves in it.

Missing Piece #2: The Customization

Building on #1, I’d encourage you not to simply cut and paste your last presentation. Sure, many of the same elements will be included. But, where possible, tailor it to the people in the room. And I don’t just mean replacing the last guy’s logo with another one.

I always think it’s good to include both a mix of stats and stories. So, is there new research to support this potential partner or sponsor being involved? Is there a story that fits with the mission of the company? Is there something you’ve seen this business say or do that should be included?

Where can you edit a presentation to make it look like it was created for their eyes only? This kind of customization shows that you value them and their time. And it demonstrates that they are the perfect partner or sponsor for the need at hand.

Missing Piece #3: Your Confidence

Are you desperate for this help? Don’t show it! I know this can be very hard. I’ve been there myself—plenty of times.

But people don’t often give to desperation, unless it’s due to something like a natural disaster or tragedy. Otherwise, it can be a little scary for those at the opposite end of the table to realize all your hopes and dreams rest on them. Unless they have a savior complex, they may run in the other direction if you let them know that they are your Plan A, B, and Z.

If their decision is the make it or break it kind, it’s a lot of pressure to put on them. And, like individuals, companies want to give where they feel their money/services will be safe and best utilized.

So, what’s the alternative? Ask out of confidence. You undoubtedly have a lot to bring to the table, so put your best foot forward. Even if you really are desperate, make a list of the ways you benefit this company, what you do well, and the people you serve. I have no doubt it’s a great list, so let it inspire you as you make your “ask.”

Cause marketing (where for-profits team up with non-profits) is only growing, and that works in your favor. It’s possible this company has been waiting for someone like you!

Missing Piece #4: The Relationship

Listen closely, because this is the most important part. Unless you are just looking for a one-off favor or check, this is the part you can’t skip: the relationship.

The key piece of your presentation is the conversation that happens before and after the projector turns on and off. No amount of beautifully-designed slides will ever replace the dialogue between you and your potential partner or sponsor.

Don’t have designer on staff? This should be great news!

Take the time to cultivate this relationship for long-term success. Get to know the company and the people behind it. How can your mission enrich their efforts? They want to make an impact, too. It just might look different.

After the check’s in the mail, how can you continue to nurture the relationship for the future?

Not only is it easier to retain previous partners/sponsors rather than finding new ones, but building an engaged and dedicated partner could have significant, long-term effects for both of you.

I’m definitely an advocate of a good-looking presentation, but more than that, I’m an advocate of building relationships.

So, don’t leave these four pieces out of your next partnership or sponsorship presentation. They could just mean the difference between a yes and a no.


 

Need a ready-to-edit presentation perfect for your next partner or sponsor meeting?

Bundle includes presentation template, talking points and content guide, customization tips, and a getting started video!

 


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Partnering with a small business—is it on your organization’s bucket list? It is for many small nonprofits and social enterprises. But it also seems a little elusive, doesn’t it?  Avoid these mistakes to have your potential partners and sponsors jumping at the chance to say, “YES!”

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations 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.