- Tue, December 21 2010
- Filed under: Nonprofit leadership
This is a review of Zilch by my Network for Good colleague Katherine Gerber. Katherine is the Executive Assistant at Network for Good. Her passion lies in driving organizational change to improve environmental and social practices.
Why on earth would any international multi-million dollar for-profit corporation ever listen to a small community-based nonprofit? What proof do we have in our pudding that makes us worthy of giving advice? In Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business, Nancy Lublin puts forth a case to consider.. several cases in fact, explaining why many nonprofits are so successful at achieving goals, retaining dedicated employees, and being innovative, and why for-profits should take a good hard look at how we’re changing the way that business is customarily done. But we shouldn’t snub our partners quite yet. Lublin’s book is just as much a go-to manual for non-profits as it is for for-profits.
Each chapter ends with 11 tips for how you can “Do More With…” an aspect of your operations and improve your work. Why 11? Because nonprofits are known for going above and beyond the expected 10 things an organization should do. So in line with Zilch’s theme, here are 11 tips that I thought were most helpful for nonprofits…
1. Be relevant to your audience. Know what they want, but also know that what they want changes with time.
2. Treat your external people as you’d like them to treat you. Respect and generosity go a long way in creating strong relationships—“ambassadors…become stakeholders, fans, and friends.“
3. Say thank you. (Really. It’s that simple. And it’s free.) Make a call, send a hand-written note.. and do it often.
4. Ask for something other than money. Whether you’re talking to a donor or a customer, ask for “referrals, for volunteers, for product contributions, for advice…sometimes the best way to get free milk is to ask for a bowl of cereal.”
5. Think of your people as resources to barter. Swapping people with expertise for people with expertise, products, or services will stretch your dollar to the max.. and be an opportunity for employee skill development.
6. Remember that accomplishing goals feels pricelessly good. Set realistic, meaningful goals with (not for) employees that will inspire all… “It should be a conversation that leads to productive decision-making.”
7. Outside believers can be a great source of innovation. Remember to be open to suggestions from everyone, not just your customers. If people know that their ideas are respected and that sharing them is encouraged, cool ideas will start to fly at you.
8. Think multiyear budgeting. Reduce the impulse to panic about your budget by creating a multiyear plan that will help you to make focused decisions for your organization (as well as create a strong reputation).
9. Behave as if you lived in a glass house. Two things: 1. Transparency in general creates public trust. 2. Transparent financial documents makes the organization itself think long and hard about how every dollar is allocated.
10. Review your people, not just their jobs. Get to know your employees’ hopes and dreams—how can you support them and help them grow? And in turn, how can they apply their passions to grow the organization? The result: a loyal and dedicated employee.
11. Remember that image is everything. Free social media outlets make it possible for people to SEE what you’re doing. Where are your pictures that will create lasting impressions?
12. Say thank you. Have I said it enough yet? Probably not.
As we move into the new year, reflect upon what you’ve done in the past, and listen to others’ suggestions to move your nonprofit forward. Nonprofits don’t just inspire each other because we’re doing good in the world—we can also teach each other how to be great at the things we’re already good at if we take the time to hone in and listen.