One of the first subjects I cover with nonprofit leaders when we are talking about business models, strategy, fundraising, or a myriad of other topics, is the difference between customers and consumers. I can’t understate how crucial understanding this difference is to nonprofit leaders. I am not one who touts the "supremacy" of the for-profit world over the nonprofit one, but I do see ways that one sector can contribute to another and this is one where nonprofit executive directors and CEOs can benefit. Having clarity on the difference between customers and consumers will enable you to understand the motivations and needs of some of your most important partners, thereby allowing you to more effectively serve them.
Fundraising is a perennial challenge for nonprofit executive directors and CEOs. The typical cycle is: you have a number of projects, you’re very busy, and so fundraising slacks off. Then you wake up at 3:00 a.m. one morning realizing all of the projects you have are sun-setting, so you panic and begin to search for new funders anywhere you can find them- no matter how long the shot. Everything else, including current projects, staff issues, and operations, is set aside to get new funding in the door. Before you know it, you’re back to having so many projects at once that you let your pipeline of funding languish again. As a result, you’re feeling like a hamster on a wheel. Yet there’s an even darker scenario as your projects sunset—you cannot find replacements, and you soon find yourself without revenue and you have to close your doors.
There’s a pervasive myth in the nonprofit world that I like to call the “uber” board. Nonprofit leaders have all heard of it—this incredible body of selfless individuals constantly doing it all - fundraising, advising, leading, volunteering, and supporting. You’re often told in person and via field literature that this is the board you must have, anything less, and your board isn’t fully functional, it is perhaps even dysfunctional, and it reflects on you as a nonprofit leader.