The First Bright+3 Book Launch: The Nimble Nonprofit

I am thrilled to announce the launch of The Nimble Nonprofit: An Unconventional Guide to Sustaining and Growing Your Nonprofit.

The nonprofit world truly is in a state of flux. Much of what used to work doesn’t anymore. The need to invest in growing ass-kicking staff and to develop sustained organizational capacity has never been greater, yet the difficulties of doing so are growing as quickly as the need. In The Nimble Nonprofit we cover a wide range of what we believe are critical challenges facing the nonprofit sector:

  • cultivating a high-impact innovative organizational culture;
  • building and sustaining a great team;
  • staying focused and productive;
  • optimizing your board of directors;
  • creating lasting relationships with foundations, donors, and members;
  • remaining agile and open; and
  • growing and sustaining a nimble, impactful organization.

We mean for The Nimble Nonprofit to be a guide – an unconventional irreverent, and pragmatic guide – to succeeding in a nonprofit leadership role, and to tackling this incredibly challenging nonprofit environment. We aimed for a conversational, practical, candid, and quick read instead of a deep dive. If you want to immerse yourself in building a great membership program, or recruiting board members, or writing by-laws, there are plenty of books that cover the terrain (and some of them are quite good).

But if you want the no-nonsense, convention-challenging, clutter-cutting guide to the info you really, really need to know about sustaining and growing a nonprofit, well, we hope you’ll check out The Nimble Nonprofit.

This is our first book, and the publishing industry is a state of disarray, so – following the spirit in which we wrote the book – we are taking an unconventional path. We decided to publish strictly as an e-book, and we decided to self-published (with a bunch of help from Ted here at Bright+3). We are offering the book through the big three e-bookstores (Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble, and we might add a few more to the mix), and we’ve priced the book at $4.99, which is much less expensive than the vast array of other nonprofit books.

As of right now, the book is available on Amazon (and it’ll hit the other two stores shortly). If you’d like to score a copy of The Nimble Nonprofit and enjoy reading it on your Kindle, iPad, or another tablet, jump on Amazon and grab it (did I mention it’s only $4.99?).

And, because our main goal is contributing to the conversations around these critical questions, we are also making a .pdf version of the book available for free.

We suspect that most readers will agree with some of what we argue and disagree with other parts, and because we challenge much of the conventional wisdom about building strong nonprofits, we’re pretty sure that some folks will disagree with a lot of what we write. And we look forward to the conversations. Please send us your thoughts, critiques, comments, and ideas

Tell us where you think we’re wrong and where we’ve hit the nail on the head, and please share with us other examples of nonprofits doing a great job of tackling these challenges and where they are just getting it wrong.

Happy reading –


(P.S. The Nimble Nonprofit is available right now on Amazon.)

Don’t phone in your social + weekly wrap

Busy week so we’re going to wrap it by kinda sorta phoning it in. And there’s the theme for the main story here.

Puppy on the phone. Don't they have earbuds or something for dogs?Earlier this week I received an email of the “take action/write congress now” nature about an issue that to me seemed pretty intense, important and, well, worthy of stepping up and clicking that button to write my Congresswoman. All in all it was pretty well written and compelling.

A couple things struck me as odd.

The PS was a call to join the organization on Facebook and Twitter. The links went to the general Facebook wall and Twitter page. If taking a shot at clouding an advocacy action with a social media call to action then make the landing page relevant to the action at hand.

There should be one clear call to action and one clear goal in your message. If one clicks the Facebook link she’s not coming back to the email, especially if the content on Facebook at that moment has nothing to do with the issue.

At this point, folks, people know about Facebook, know your organization has a Facebook page, and they know how to find it and follow your organization. Why distract from your message with a confusing call to the obvious?

Focus. Drive towards a goal-oriented conversion or don’t bother. Don’t phone it in.

Second, the message was “signed” by the organization and not a person. Perhaps this has little or no impact on the number of respondents but it sends a message that there aren’t actual people there writing these messages, staying on top of the issue…someone that could tell me personally what the hell is happening. People connect with people. Not organizations.

Wrapping up the week

Some smart thinking on the Intertubes this week:

Punk views on social media writes about the brand army. A lot of smart organizations look to identify some of their most active social media followers and give them tools to spread the word. Many others just sorta hope that will happen. Instead, look at social media following as the start of the engagement process. Empower and enable everyone there to get involved, spread the word and speak on your behalf. Create an army.

Get a digital product manager for your nonprofit. WHAT? Daniel Atwood ran digital at the impressive Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association for several years. He notes that digital has changed the nature of how many people view the role of nonprofit organizations. Increasingly,  folks want tools to make change directly. Heard of Nonprofits know what’s going on in their field and are often creating tools for change. Why not think of these as products for people, not just staff?

Digital teams need to get a handle on how they position themselves in the organization if they want to stop underperforming. That’s part of the message from Jason Mogus over at Communicopia, a firm that’s been putting forth a ton of smart thinking lately about digital teams. Fact is most digital staff really need to build their leadership skills and take charge of their team’s destiny. It won’t be easy but is imperative for the team success (and the organization’s).

Be More Like Artists

This short Chronicle of Philanthropy interview with Seth Godin is from December, and as usual Godin hits the point hard: nonprofits have a tendency to act in corporate, structured, safe ways, often to the detriment of the values they espouse.  He criticizes the “be like a business” mentality that he traces to the early philanthropists, who themselves generally acquired their fortunes through the private sector.

I share the underlying sentiment (nonprofits should act more like artists and playwrights, as he colorfully puts it), but I think the frame is wrong.  The question, in Jim Collins’ fashion, isn’t how nonprofits can act more like businesses, but how nonprofits can act more like successful organizations.  Both the business world and the nonprofit world run the gamut from the sloppy, useless, not-likely-to-be-around-next-year outfits to the slick, efficient, effective, highly successful operations.  The key to being great isn’t emulating “the private sector,” but rather learning from the best practices across all sectors.