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Joanne Fritz

My Dream Nonprofit: Stubborn, Eloquent, Donor Focused

By January 20, 2013

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Birds flying in arrow formation representing your organizational mission.

The qualities that I dream of for my ideal nonprofit are many and drawn from lots of sources, but stubborn, eloquent, and donor focused stand out.


All great leaders are stubborn, whether they are business leaders, seekers of the social good, or even politicians. Of course stubborness can be an impediment to getting anything done (need I mention some people in government?), but the great leaders combine that stubborn streak with the ability to listen, change course, and adapt new tactics all while keeping their eye on the ultimate goal.

Just think of Charles Best of DonorsChoose, Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes, Frances Hesselbein of The Girl Scouts, or Martin Luther King, Jr, perhaps the most stubborn change agent ever.

A stubborn nonprofit leader benchmarks his or her actions against the mission of the organization and is able to say no to all distractions, all while adapting to changes in the environment and communications channels.


Being eloquent is about using simple language that anyone can understand and being repetitive to the point of exhaustion.

The caring leader does not engage in self-aggrandizement by talking above the heads of followers just to show off his or her smarts. She doesn't dumb down either out of a sense of superiority. Winston Churchill famously said "...short words are the best, and the old words best of all." And just look how he was able to mesmerize and inspire a nation during a terrible threat.

For one of the greatest examples of the power of simple repetition, just check out Martin Luther King Jr's Dream Speech.

Repetition is just as powerful when spread across time. A great nonprofit will repeat its message in many ways and across media as long as it takes to make a difference. Remember, you get tired of saying it far sooner than your supporters do from hearing it.

Donor Focused

Donor focused means forgetting the "I" and "we" and attending to the "you." Donor focused is almost the same as "customer service." But with a bit of a twist. The charity that focuses on donors and their dreams and needs should do so not out of any expectation of receiving something in return, but out of a sense of respect and care. Oddly, that selflessness is returned again and again.

Before a charity can even become donor focused, it must become transparent, trustworthy, and establish a record of results. It's the only way to beat back the waves of skepticism and doubt that frequently erupt due to unscrupulous nonprofits that take advantage of the public's inherent good will.

These are the qualities that I look for in nonprofits and their leadership. How about you? What qualities create your dream organization?

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February 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm
(1) Elaine Fogel says:

Joanne, I totally agree about the donor focus. Without donors, there are no funds to operate and fulfill the mission.

I wonder what percentage of nonprofits have written donor retention and stewardship protocols with ongoing training for all employees.

February 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm
(2) nonprofit says:

What a good question, Elaine! I have no idea but would love to know. Keep me in the loop if you explore that.

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