Archive for December, 2009

Do You Still “Dial” a Phone Number?

Posted on December 28, 2009. Filed under: Combined Federal Campaign - CFC, Customer Service, Fundraising, Leadership, Non-profits |

Do You Still “Dial A Phone Number?”

Of course you do, and you may say “I need to call Sally” but the expression I need to “dial the phone number” is still legitimate even though dials themselves disappeared from the phone years ago. By the way, what’s a “dial tone” if there is no dial?

I mention these examples because some in the non-profit world are about to embark on the periodic effort to change the term “nonprofit” to something else. This occurs periodically, and has some attraction because the feeling is that the word “non-profit” doesn’t explain what non-profits are and how valuable they really are to society.

If you’re new to the non-profit world you may not realize that the non-profit academic world spent about a decade debating whether or not non-profit had a hyphen in it. As I just used in the examples above, it can be spelled either way, and it’s still correct.

Some of the terms that have been suggested include “independent sector, community benefit organizations, social profit, delta sector, third sector, and social enterprise, among others.

Doing just a quick Google search shows these numbers of instances for the terms listed, plus the word “business”:

Business 1,890,000,000
Non-profit 105,000,000
Nonprofit 31,200,000
Community Benefit 458,000
Third Sector 1,820,000
Social profit 83,600
Delta Sector 115,000
Social enterprise 1,900,000

Now I understand the limitation of the word non-profit, but that’s not because the term itself is bad, it’s because the non-profit sector has done such a lousy job of explaining what non-profits are to the American public and how they are different from businesses.

One of my fundamental pointss I pose as a board member or non-profit consultant is:
“Don’t forget to ask the “New Coke” question – what happens if we do this.” Do we spend the next twenty years getting people to call non-profits “NewTerm, previously called nonprofits” because that “previously called non-profits” phrase will be need to be there for a long time (years).

As I said in my open letter to the Independent Sector at their meeting about the “future of non-profits:”

Non-profits have done a spectacularly lousy job of explaining themselves to the American public.

Modern societies need three components to function: government, businesses, and non-profits. Non-profits are the glue that holds society together, and while in the USA we have a market economy, our society is bigger than the economy. Non-profits are inherently different than businesses. Governments are inherently different than businesses. Here is a diagram showing the fundamental difference between businesses and non-profits. It is astounding how many non-profit leaders (and political leaders) don’t do a better job of communicating to the American public about the value of all three components of society, all of which are critical.

Business Organization Non-profit Organization

(Blogging Software is not allowing a display of the graphic, if you
would like, send me an e-mail and I’ll gladly send it to you.)

The fundamental difference is that in the business example, the provider of the funds is also the direct recipient of the benefits of goods and/or services provided, e.g. customers. On its face, the diagram on the right is more complex than the one on the left, and this is what non-profit leaders have done a poor job of communicating to the American public


Instead of spending a lot of internal energy debating what term should be used, which would be a waste of time, because the phrase “non-profit” is so imbued throughout the English language and laws that it would take decades for it to be replaced, let’s concentrate on showing and telling the American public what non-profits are and why they matter.

It would be a much better use of the collective time and talent of the non-profit sector.

Bill Huddleston
P.S. I have just about finished updating my CFC Special report for 2010, please go to cfcfundraising dot com and request it, it will be sent soon.
Thanks very much!

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Non-Profit Self Esteem Crisis – Blue Avocado

Posted on December 22, 2009. Filed under: Combined Federal Campaign - CFC, Customer Service, Fundraising, Leadership, Non-profits |

Non-profit Self Esteem Crisis or the Non-profit Invisibility Crisis

The Blue Avocado website has an interesting post about the “Non-profit Self Esteem Crisis” by Jonathon Spack and I agree with many of his points (full article is here:

I think that in addition to the report about the misconceptions much of the American public has about the non-profit sector, one of the contributing factors is the almost invisible presence the non-profit sector has in bricks and mortar bookstores. During the holiday season I spend a fair amount of time in bookstores, and one aspect that I am always irritated by is the almost invisible nature of the non-profit sector to anyone in the bookstore. On the periodical rack there are essentially no magazines addressing the non-profit sector, with the recent exception of “Good” and there are some magazines published by non-profits, especially in the foreign affairs arena, and some others with a political commentary focus, e.g. Washington Monthly. The ones that are focused on the non-profit sector: Chronicle of Philanthropy, Non-profit Times, Non-profit Quarterly, Nonprofit World, etc. are ones that I have never seen on a newsstand.

In the book arena, it’s only slightly better. Once you’re a regular customer you may know where to find non-profit titles, and it’s often in the “Business/Finance” section or the “Leadership” area but there are plenty of titles that don’t exactly fit either category – e.g. the Wilder Foundation’s “The 5 Life Stages of Non-profit Organizations” is listed in the “Business/Social Science” category but I know I bought my copy online because I couldn’t find it in the bookstore.

December 17, 2009 was the 106th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight. What many people don’t realize is that the first flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet (37 meters). There were three flights that day, with the longest lasting 59 seconds and covering 852 feet. That one very small step changed the world forever, and my point is that even gigantic accomplishments can start with a single, small seemingly insignificant act.

I don’t equate having a visible “Non-profits” section in a bookstore with the invention of powered flight, but it would be a start to losing the “low self-esteem and invisibility syndrome.” Let’s begin by asking your bookstore where their “Non-profit section” is, and if they don’t have one, writing and requesting one at the corporate level. Use the statistics about how big the non-profit sector is, but make the point that the reason they should do this is that they will sell more books.

Bill Huddleston

P.S. I have just about finished updating my CFC Special report for 2010, please go to cfcfundraising dot com and request it, it will be sent soon.

Thanks very much!

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Non-profit Social Media – Misleading Report on website

Posted on December 7, 2009. Filed under: Fundraising, Leadership, Non-profits |


One of the major websites in the non-profit world is and generally they do an excellent job of creating and posting good content, as well as having links to many non-profit blogs. However, in a current special report about “Ten Emerging Forces in 2010” there is an extremely misleading piece about the use and prevalence of social media by non-profits.

In the tenth section of the report, called “A Stalled Online Revolution”, this statement is made:
“A wave of experimentation. A survey of 200 nonprofit groups by Weber Shandwick, a public-relations company, found that 51 percent of charities are regularly using Twitter and other social-media tools, while 85 percent said they plan to use them more frequently.”

The implication is that these statistics are true for the entire non-profit sector and that is patently false. I can’t tell if the misrepresentation is just from the report, or also from the company that conducted the survey. What’s missing, but is included in the survey research methodology section (and I thank them for including that), is that Weber Shandwick only surveyed non-profits that had a budget of $1 million or more. This is like surveying only millionaires about how hard the recession is affecting them. It might produce some interesting anecdotes but the information has no validity beyond that.

Using data from the National Center on Charitable Statistics, (table below) non-profits with a budget of more than $1 million account for only 6.8 percent of all public charities in the U.S. Both organizations need to be more forthcoming in the fact that this survey contains only data from the biggest of the big and not pretend that it’s an accurate picture of the entire non-profit world. I’m sure that many smaller non-profits are using social media, which is great, but this survey did not include any small non-profits at all which actually make up 92.8 percent of the non-profits in US. The percentages below show the number of public charities by total revenue.

Level of Total Revenue Number of Registered Organizations
A. Less than $100,000 760,111 79.40%
B. $100,000-249,999 64,088 6.70%
C. $250,000-499,999 38,491 4.00%
D. $500,000-999,999 29,900 3.10%

E. $1-5 mil. 41,060 4.30%
F. $5-10 mil. 9,490 1.00%
G. $10-100 mil. 11,995 1.30%
H. More than $100 mil. 2,155 0.20%

Total 957,290 100.00%

Bill Huddleston

P.S. I have just about finished updating my CFC Special report for 2010, please go to and request it, it will be sent soon.
Thanks very much!

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