- Thu, July 12 2007
- Filed under: Nonprofit leadership
It’s been a busy week - on Monday, I presented at the Association of Fundraising Professionals meeting here in DC. On Wednesday, I presented at the American Marketing Foundation Foundation annual conference, and today I hosted a free teleconference called, “Nonprofit 911” about how to fix ailing online giving programs (675 people registered, so clearly it struck a chord!). My experiences at these events have yielded loads of material for the blog, which I’ll be sharing for the next week or two.
Today, I want to highlight some points made by my professional mentor and marketing idol, Bill Novelli, who delivered the AMA conference’s closing speech. His theme was the nonprofit sector’s triple bottom line. Corporations have a single bottom line - shareholder value, which is driven by profits. As people working for the public good, we have a triple bottom line, he said. Namely: social change, stakeholder value and revenue generation.
What Bill said that was most interesting was that we’ve got to stop thinking about those three line items as separate and instead think of them collectively. Specifically, he said we have to seek the synergies between them. (Oops, I broke my vow never to use the word “synergy” in print, but at least I’m quoting someone else. I promise to keep my pledge with respect to “leverage.”) You could save the whales, send out plastic wristbands to thank your members, and sell whale-embroidered neckties at the holidays as separate endeavors, and they might work in isolation. But wouldn’t it make more sense to save the whales by making the other two endeavors reinforce your mission of saving the whales - like naming whale pods after your most generous members and reporting on how they’re doing regularly to show value, and selling whale-watching trips so that ecotourism dollars would drive more environmentally-friendly policies in areas home to whales? This is my example - Bill showed how AARP is building social impact into products from health care plans to financial products to achieve a self-reinforcing triple bottom line.
“Synergy is the most powerful part of your work, if you can figure it out,” he says.
I like to think we do this at Network for Good. Our mission is to get more resources to nonprofits online. We provide tools and training to help nonprofits get more money online (stakeholder value) and also sell special paid (but inexpensive) fundraising services to nonprofits, which reinforces our mission. This hasn’t always been the case in my career—I remember once working with a furniture company on a co-branded campaign that sure did nothing to promote social change. Oops.
Is your triple bottom line reinforcing your mission?