Rethinking Nonprofit Branding – with Vickie Sullivan

On June 13, 2017, Vickie Sullivan published a blog post called “When Old Clients Hate New Ideas.” Although she’s addressing a for-profit audience, her message was so pertinent for nonprofit fundraisers, I called her up right away, breathlessly of course, to say, “Vickie!!! This whole thing applies to fundraising!!! Do a podcast with me!” Fortunately, Vickie and I have known and worked together for the past 15 years so she didn’t hang up on me, and it didn’t take much arm-twisting to convince her.

Vickie is a branding expert for consultants, professional speakers, and major corporations. She’s been doing this work for about 30 years, with terrific results.

Vickie’s says we may risk confusing, alienating and even losing some stakeholders when we change direction, add new products or programs, or revise the fundraising strategy. But that might so bad! She continues, “If you can’t apply your new direction to their situation effortlessly, you’ll look unsure.” It’s just as risky for nonprofits, but it might be even riskier NOT to. You might have trained your funders in counter-productive techniques like the tin-cup mentality, desperation, and “miraculous fundraising” (i.e., the Lord will provide). Cut it out. The underlying, unintentional message might make you look weak, unsure of yourself, or worse. Funders want to invest in – and stick with – the winners.

Vickie Sullivan isn’t well known in the nonprofit sector – yet. We hope this podcast changes that situation for the better. Get to know her better at


Ruth McCambridge on the Nonprofit Wage Ghetto

There’s a widespread assumption that it’s OK for nonprofit employees to earn less than their for-profit peers. We actually don’t think it’s OK – that’s what this podcast is about – but it’s certainly common. Which is really too bad; paying nonprofit staff low wages is neither wise nor good, and could even undermine the organization’s ability to achieve its mission. If anything related to fundraising demands rethinking, then surely raising enough money to compensate employees appropriately is it.

Ruth McCambridge, the managing editor of The Nonprofit Quarterly, has done some research on this issue. Her findings provide a deep and serious challenge to the assumption that low nonprofit wages are acceptable. In fact, Ruth suggests in some sectors, low wages are producing an “industry of poverty.” Ruth and I discuss this subject at length in this podcast. You can also read more about this in her article “The Nonprofit Wage Ghetto” in the September 2016 issue of the magazine.

While most nonprofit leaders may earn less than their counterparts in established for-profits, those at the lower end of the hierarchy are most likely to suffer – badly – from the Nonprofit Wage Ghetto. Her studies show a majority of front-line caregivers, especially those in childcare, elder care and care for the disabled, are so poorly compensated they often need assistance programs themselves. These jobs require difficult hours, as well as high physical and emotional demands. Happily, Ruth suggests some innovative trends, plus a call to action on the part of governments at all levels, to address this inequity.



Vu Le and Community-Centric Fundraising

If you haven’t been following Vu Le’s irresistible blog Nonprofit AF (formerly known as Nonprofit with Balls), you’re missing something. Subtitle of the blog: “Make Mondays suck a little less.” Vu is one of the cleverest, most insightful thinkers about nonprofit work I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. For those of you who don’t know Vu, he’s the executive director of Rainier Valley Corps, an organization promoting social justice by cultivating leaders of color. Recently, Vu has become interested in a fundraising model which challenges the traditional “donor-centric” approach. He calls it “community-centric fundraising.” As Vu sees it, it’s great to be thoughtful and caring about donors, but not to the point where we unintentionally allow donors undue influence over mission or programs, simply to retain their goodwill (and their money). The organizational mission must take priority. And since almost all nonprofits serve a community, geographic or not, raising money through community involvement is more inclusive and more impactful. The community has a greater stake in the organization’s outcomes; all can contribute according to their means. I find this approach so refreshing! It merits serious consideration. Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think. While you’re at it, check out Vu’s Nonprofit AF posts on the subject!

Elln Bristol Rethinking Fundraising

Rethinking Fundraising – The Executive’s Perspective

Conversations with Ellen and Leading Practitioners, Technologists, Journalists and Other Provocateurs about Funding Nonprofits

Hello, everyone! This is Ellen Bristol, founder of Bristol Strategy, performance management geek and nut for metrics. After years of working to improve the productivity and strategic management of the fundraising function, we decided to launch a podcast series, to interview experts, practitioners and provocateurs with both conventional, and decidedly UNCONVENTIONAL, ways of talking about, thinking about and implementing strategies for funding their nonprofit organizations, to achieve the mission, serve the client, and bring about desirable social change. While we all want to see our organizations thrive, there are many different ways to keep nonprofit organizations financially healthy.

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