Creating Sustainable Change Begins With One Question: Why?

“Why?” is a small, but powerful question we often forget to ask. However, it can make the difference between addressing a symptom vs the cause. That difference is the key to creating sustainable change.

Addressing symptoms will only result in temporary change. However, when we find out why those symptoms are showing up in the first place, we can begin to create a thoughtful and strategic plan that will determine how we can improve. This will set us up for success and help create that sustainable change we strive for.

My favorite thing about asking “Why?” is that it can be used to either fix a problem or even take your organization from good to great. If there is something you think your organization does amazingly well, ask yourself “Why?” again. You can use that information to build on or you can share the knowledge and become a leader in your field.  Try asking this question throughout your organization and see where it leads you.

Here are a few examples and some follow-up questions to get the conversation going.

Program Management: Why is your organization launching that new program?

  • Is there a demonstrated need?
  • Is there a gap in services?
  • Has the program proven to be successful elsewhere?
  • Have you considered partnering with other community organizations?

Fundraising: Why are you going after certain donors?

  • Does your prospective donor have the wealth/capacity to give?
  • Have they shown an interest in your cause or something similar?
  • Do you have a connection to them?

Board Members: Why is/isn’t your board giving?

  • Have they been engaged in a way that is meaningful to them as individuals?
  • Are they well-educated about the organizations programs and impact?
  • Are they trained to fund raise on your behalf?
  • Do they have everything they need to do their job successfully?

Organizational Leadership: Why is/isn’t your team more engaged/productive?

  • Have you set clear goals and expectations for both teams and individuals?
  • Are you challenging your team?
  • Are you showing your team appreciation?
  • Are you giving team members the opportunity to use their skills to make a meaningful contribution?

Catalyst Miami: Strengthening South Florida’s Nonprofit Community

I wanted to highlight Catalyst Miami (formerly the Human Services Coalition) in a blog post because I think they are a great resource for local nonprofits and do-gooders. I first learned about Catalyst Miami last year while searching for an organization to get involved with. I was automatically drawn to their emphasis on empowering both individuals and nonprofits to make South Florida a better place.

For nonprofits in particular, they have developed the Nonprofit Leadership Training Institute (NLTI) to help strengthen the organizational capacity of local nonprofits. Earlier this month I attended their first NLTI session – Development with a Dose of Reality. Local fundraising consultant Glenn Kaufhold of GKollaborative led the session, giving local organizations advice on how to create a development plan. It was a great opportunity for local organizations (especially startups) to get insight from an experienced professional and ask questions.  If you are interested in learning more about the sessions, they will be sending out information via their e-newsletter (you can sign up on their website).

Future NLTI sessions include:

  • Individual and Major Giving Plans
  • Nonprofit Sales Pitch 101
  • The Written Message
  • Social Media for Nonprofits
  • Unique Challenges of Managing Nonprofit Employees
  • Creating a Dynamic and Engaged Workplace – SPEC
  • Nonprofits in the World of Profit – Business Strategies and Management
  • Stakeholder Engagement – Partnerships and Alliances for Community Success
  • Tell Your Story – Use Data to Show Impact
  • Tools for Internal Change – Managing Internal Roles and Assessments
  • Advocacy and Storytelling – Building a Movement
  • Applying an Asset-Based Approach to Your Development Projects
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Positive Change Through Media Arts
  • Make Government Your Ally

I hope you find this post helpful and can make use of this neat resource. 🙂 If you know of any other great resources for our local nonprofits, please share them either in the comments below or send me an email at I’d love to highlight them also!

Catalyst Miami //

Creative video explanation of what they do: Catalyst Miami

Mission: To develop and support individual leadership and strong organizations that work together to improve health, education and economic opportunity in all our communities.

20 Links To Get Your Nonprofit Started With Social Media

I think I’m a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to social media. I’ve had a personal Facebook page for a while, but I started blogging and tweeting just 7 months ago. While I am still learning, I can tell you the benefits became apparent early on. It’s helped build some relationships, has allowed me to develop my personal brand, and has even become a learning tool in itself.  It does, however, require you to invest something invaluable … time.

If your organization has just decided to jump in as well, this post is for you.  I’ve put together this list of resources to help you make the best of the time you have for social media. The list includes links to information on getting started, creating social media policies for your organization, measuring success and some other things I thought might be useful for someone who is just jumping in. I hope you find it helpful!

Research: Nonprofits & Social Media

Getting Started

  • Tutorials On Social Media (This list from Socialbrite is absolutely awesome and it’s separated by category (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.)


Social Media Policy

Measuring Success

Monitoring Tools

A Few More Ideas

5 Tips To Keep Learning Without Spending A Dime

I’ve always loved the scene in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon’s character tells a Harvard student he’s dropped over a hundred thousand dollars on an education he could have received at the library. I believe education is invaluable and encourage people to at least go for their BA, but not having money shouldn’t keep you from continuing your education.  If we want to keep learning, but don’t have the funds for grad school (and don’t want to keep piling on student loans!), we just have to be a little more creative about how we continue to learn. So here are five ways we can continue to learn about nonprofits without spending a dime (i.e. Good Will Hunting style).

  1. Free Webinars: You can find webinars on all sorts of subjects these days. For free nonprofit webinars, check out Wild Apricot’s blog.  They compile and post a list of free nonprofit webinars every month. Check out September’s list. You can also do a quick search online or keep an eye out on websites like for live chats.
  2. Free Books/Ebooks: I don’t just mean the library. Lots of nonprofit rock stars have released e-books that can be downloaded for free. Again, you can find some just by doing a quick search online. I’ve also started compiling a list of them on my Books page.
  3. Community Events/Seminars: Keep an eye out for local events like seminars, symposiums, etc.  Sign up for e-newsletters, check up on websites (local colleges/universities, organizations that serve as community hubs, etc.) regularly. For those looking for events in South Florida, I’ve started compiling a list of events that I have heard about on my Local Events page.
  4. Volunteering: I’m still working on this myself, but finding an organization with volunteer opportunities in areas you’d like to grow can end up being a great win/win relationship.  If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity check out , , or
  5. Conversations: Talking to leaders within your organization, in your community, etc. can provide invaluable insight.  There’s really nothing like hearing directly from someone who currently has your dream job or who is a pro in your niche. Ask questions and remember to use your active listening skills.
  6. Social Media: I’m a bit late in the game here. I just really started realizing the potential in this area earlier this year, but when used correctly social media can provide you a plethora of valuable information. I absolutely love Twitter for this very reason. Follow the right people and organizations, and a lot of the opportunities mentioned above will show up in your stream.
Do you have any other ideas? Share them below in the comments section below! 🙂


10 Miami Nonprofit Blogs To Follow

I’ve been on a quest to find local nonprofit blogs. I thought I should share the list (along with each organizations mission statement) in case you were looking for some to follow. If you know of any others, please share in the comments section below.. enjoy!

  1. Casa Valentina: Casa Valentina’s mission is to help young women transition successfully from foster care to independent living.
  2. Art Studio Miami: The mission of Art Studio Inc, a 501c3 non-profit organization, is to empower young minds by providing a safe location where youth are inspired and guided by artists, teachers and professional mentors who support the student’s education and career development through the integration of creative holistic arts.
  3. Voices for Children Foundation: The mission of Voices For Children Foundation is to raise funds to ensure that every abused and neglected child in Miami-Dade County has a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem and that financial assistance and other resources are available for their accompanying health, educational, and social needs.
  4. Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens: Our mission is to save tropical plant diversity by exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants; fundamental to this task is inspiring a greater knowledge and love for plants and gardening so that all can enjoy the beauty and bounty of the tropical world.
  5. South Florida Red Cross: The American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and guided by its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross Movement, will provide relief to victims of disaster and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.
  6. MOCA: The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is dedicated to making contemporary art accessible to diverse audiences – especially underserved populations – through the collection, preservation and exhibition of the best of contemporary art and its art historical influences.
  7. Catalyst Miami: To develop and support individual leadership and strong organizations that work together to improve health, education and economic opportunity in all our communities.
  8. Knight Foundation: Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.
  9. LegalArt Miami: Founded in 2003, LegalArt has dedicated itself to providing artists with affordable legal services, grants and educational opportunities. By empowering artists with access to legal and professional support, resources and information, LegalArt creates opportunities and protections for Miami’s art community; fostering a generation armed with the skills to legally protect their creations. All LegalArt programming helps artists by creating a community both dedicated to and invested in their success.
  10. Greater Miami Jewish Federation: The Mission of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation is to mobilize human and financial resources to care for those in need, strengthen Jewish life and advance the unity, values and shared purpose of the Jewish people in Miami, in Israel and around the world.

*UPDATE 8.5.11

Adding another great organization to the list!

  11. KidSafe Foundation: KidSafe Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to empower children, teachers  and  parents with personal safety education life skills to make safer and smarter choices. It is our goal to decrease the incidents of child abuse, bullying, peer pressure, abduction and internet safety issues to create confident skilled children who can be the first line of defense in their own safety. KidSafe Foundation offers prevention education programs for children ages 4-15 and their parents. This consists of providing adult seminars, teacher workshops and in classroom lessons with the children.  Prevention Education Life Skills are taught through a 4, 6 or 8 week program.  The lessons are  fun, developmentally appropriate  and include activities such as song, art, role-playing, games, and discussion. This empowering program allows the children and parents to open communication regarding sensitive topics in a safe environment.

Three questions to ask before your nonprofit takes on a new project

The nonprofit world is exciting. It’s easy to get carried away with ideas on how we can make this world a better place! There are SO many worthy causes and so many opportunities for partnership. However, not all projects, partnerships and programs will be a great match for your organization. Your resources are limited, so you have to choose carefully where you are going to invest them.

Here are three questions to help you decide whether to take on that new project/partnership/program.

  1. Does this [project, partnership, program, etc.] support our mission to [insert your mission statement here]? Ultimately, it boils down to this one question. If the answer is yes, great! However, if the answer is no, take some time to really think about why you want to take on this project. It may be a great project, but if it’s not aligned with your mission, you’ll be pulling resources away without moving the organization forward. While you’re doing that, review your mission statement, this should be what guides your organizations plans.
  2. Do we have the funding? If you do, again, that’s great! If not, it does not necessarily mean you can’t move forward. Depending on the size of the project, you may still be able to work on it. However, be sure to evaluate your resources and work within those parameters while looking for funding and make sure your team knows the situation.
  3. What is the work/benefit ratio? Consider the resources you will have to invest (volunteer hours, staff time, equipment, dollars, etc.), as well as how the organization/population served will benefit. Will this partnership produce lots of work, but little results? If the work outweighs the benefit, it’s time to reconsider this endeavor. Remember, resources are limited and have to be used wisely. Throwing resources into a project with little to no benefit (ROI) may not be a smart move.

Sometimes an idea might seem great in theory, but after some thoughtful consideration, you might find that occasionally it may be in the organizations best interest to gracefully decline some “opportunities”.  In the words of Good to Great author Jim Collins, “to do the most good requires saying “no” to pressures to stray and the discipline to stop doing what does not fit.”

Why is this so important?

  1. Organizational success – You want your organization to find a cure, end hunger, etc! It’s why you’re here! You have a great mission and if you focus and make sure resources are used wisely, you can change the world.
  2. Accountability – We are accountable not only to the community we serve, but also to the donors who fund our efforts. You want your funders to be confident in your organizations ability to achieve its mission AND in your organizations ability to manage its resources (i.e. the money they gave you!). Donors support you because they believe in your mission. They trust that when they give you money, you will use it to accomplish that mission.

Have some other questions to add to the list? Share them below!