Storytelling for Nontraditional Outcomes

Many nonprofits have impact that is difficult to quantify. For example, how does an organization offering experiential learning programs for urban youth share the transformation and wonder that occurs when children learn outdoors? Or what about a nonprofit that puts incarcerated individuals and graduate students in the same classroom so they can learn from one another?

These stories deserve to be told—and they are essential for organizations seeking to fundraise and share their mission. In this article, Christy Burkey, Director of Marketing and Communications for Hope Reins in Raleigh, NC, shares some approaches her nonprofit takes when it comes to sharing their unique stories and programs.

1. Consider multiple viewpoints when telling a story.
Hope Reins is a 33-acre ranch that pairs hurting kids with horses to help them find hope and healing. The organization offers individual and group sessions with horses and session leaders, as well as summer camps, mentorship programs, and ranch fellowships.

“There are so many viewpoints you can cover,” says Burkey. “A lot of times our session leaders will tell the story from their perspective. First person is great for storytelling, but so is the third person.”

Hope Reins also shares their horses’ stories, which can end up being an important part of clients’ healing. “What happens is kids come out, and they’ve been abused, and we introduce them to a horse that was locked away for months without food. You tell the child about Freddy’s experience. You show how Freddy now trusts and loves people even though he was starved and abused, and they connect with that,” Burkey observes. “The child’s story becomes the horse’s story.”

2. Let stories bubble up. “Families will seek us out and tell us what a difference Hope Reins has made for them, and they advocate for us,” shares Burkey. One young client wrote a heartfelt letter to the organization about what the ranch had meant to him. But Burkey works to ensure that clients’ confidentiality is protected at all times. “You have to get creative,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard for kids to talk about their perspectives.”

3. Encourage people to visit and experience your organization. “It’s hard to know us until you come out to the ranch and meet some of the horses,” Burkey notes. “We show visitors how we act, why we are here. We’re here to serve and help clients get better. Are we therapists? No. We just welcome kids and facilitate a relationship between the horse and child. It’s a platform for healing.”

Click to learn more about The INS Group’s marketing and communications services for nonprofit and faith-based organizations.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management

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Collective Impact: Management & Design Best Practices

  • Design and implement your collective initiative with a priority placed on equity.
  • Address systemic structures and practices that create barriers to equitable outcomes for all populations, particularly along lines of race and class.
  • Be intentional about the collective design to ensure that an “equity lens” is in place throughout the process.
  • Include community members in the collaborative.
  • Include players from across sectors and different parts of community, including nonprofits, government, private sector, philanthropy, and residents.
  • Create a systems-level view.
  • Use data to continuously learn, adapt, and improve.
  • Cultivate leaders with unique system leadership skills, such as strong facilitation, management, and convening skills.
  • Focus on program and system strategies, such as those that increase communication and coordination.
  • Improve services system-wide, using current best practices and new evidence-based practices.
  • Build a culture that fosters relationships, trust, and respect across participants.
  • Customize the work to fit your local community context to ensure the strategies are most relevant to local needs.



Collaboration for Impact:

Collective Impact Forum:

FSG Reimagining Social Change:

To further increase your organizational capacity, join The INS Group’s “Unleash the ‘Inner Fundraiser’ in Your Board of Directors” webinar on November 8, 2017 (2 – 3 pm). Click here to register.



Posted in Capacity Building, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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Is Going Cloud-Based Right for Your Organization? A Quiz

There are lots of reasons for organizations to move their operations to cloud computing—or Internet-based computing—including significant cost savings and increased collaboration. Take this quiz to find out if your organization is ready!

A answers are worth 1 point, B answers 2 points, and C answers 3 points. Add your points to find your results at the end of the quiz. 

1. Does your organization pay for IT staff or consultants? 
A. No, our IT services are donated
B. We pay a consultant for a set number of hours each month, but it’s expensive 
C. We have a full-time IT staff person 

2. Is your organization’s server located in a safe, air-conditioned room?
A. Not sure
B. Yes, but the room is also used for other things
C. Yes, the server has a safe, dedicated space

3. Does your organization currently use any cloud-based software, such as Google Docs, Salesforce, or Basecamp?
A. Not sure
B. We use some
C. Yes, our staff is very comfortable with cloud-based applications

4. Does your staff work remotely or collaborate digitally on projects with other organizations?
A. Not often
B. Sometimes
C. Yes

5. Do your staff have regular access to a reliable Internet connection while they work?
A. Not often
B. Sometimes
C. Most of the time

6. Do your staff use special software or programs (e.g. databases, design programs) that require a desktop computer or laptop?
A. Not sure
B. More than 25% of staff do
C. Less than 25% of staff do

What’s your score?

6-10 points: Your organization isn’t ready for the cloud—yet. It’s time to take a thorough look at your organization’s IT and computer needs. Going cloud based can provide significant savings, but if most of your services and equipment are donated in-kind, then there’s time to wait as your organization grows.

11-14 points: Look ahead to the future. In many ways, your organized is primed for the cloud—you may already use some cloud-based applications or have a staff that is accustomed to working on complex projects with individuals in other locations. Some questions to consider: Will your organization continue to grow at its current rate? Does your organization have special software needs that can’t be accommodated in the cloud at this time? Work with leadership to determine whether switching to the cloud might be an advantage for your organization in the near future.

15-18 points: Switch to the cloud! Your organization is ready. Your staff is digitally savvy and you need a safe place to protect your information. Have fun exploring the many cloud options out there!

Want to learn more organizational development strategies? Join The INS Group’s “Unleash the ‘Inner Fundraiser’ in Your Board of Directors” webinar on November 8, 2017 (2 – 3 pm ET). Click here to register.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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Considering the Collective Impact Model? Where to Look, What to Ask

Here are a few places to turn to when seeking partners for a collective:

State and Community Partnerships Identify community organizations and those focused on systems change.

Support and Intermediary Organizations Develop relationships with grassroots organizations and universities that can help with research and offer skills and professional development for partners.

Grantmakers They can help build on the success of the collective by using requests for proposals to bring people together for a common purpose.

Once you’ve identified partners, here are a few questions to ask:

How can these groups work together most effectively?

What roles and responsibilities of each, when combined, will help make your communities healthier places to live?

Additional Collective Impact Resources

Collaboration for Impact:

Collective Impact Forum:

FSG Reimagining Social Change:



Collaboration for Impact:

Collective Impact Forum:

FSG Reimagining Social Change:


Gain more capacity-building insights when you participate in The INS Group webinars. Check our website for the latest schedule.


Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Donors, Fund Development, Fundraising, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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3 Nonprofits that Successfully Rebranded — and How They Did It

There are many reasons why organizations choose to rebrand themselves. Outdated logos, mergers, and misperceptions of an organization’s mission are all compelling reasons to reinvent a nonprofit’s image.

Here are three nonprofits that survived the rebranding process thanks to planning, strategy, and forward thinking.

1. YMCA of the USA

 In 2010, the YMCA underwent a huge branding rehaul, launching a new logo and framework focused on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.  

Why they did it: The YMCA was seen in many communities as a cost-effective place to exercise–but not much else. Organization leadership wanted people to “better understand the benefits of engaging with the Y,” says Kate Coleman, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of YMCA of the USA. “We [simplified] how we describe the programs we offer so that it is immediately apparent that everything we do is designed to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve health and well-being, and support our neighbors and the larger community.”

How they did it: The YMCA launched a new logo–its first redesign in 43 years– with bright colors intended to reflect the diversity of its communities and activities. The YMCA also started calling itself the “Y,” echoing how the organization is often referred to publicly. Finally, the Y’s new framework demonstrates the organization’s broader programmatic focus for individuals, families, and communities.

Why it was successful: By tapping into its nickname, the “Y,” the YMCA affirmed itself as a cultural institution that is here to stay. It also refreshed the public perception of its mission and programs with a framework that engages a new generation of members: kids. The YMCA spent two years conducting analysis and research for its rebranding effort–which clearly paid off.

2. Families Moving Forward

In 2015, two organizations serving homeless families in Durham, NC realized they had shared goals–so they decided to merge and combine their areas of expertise. Genesis Home and the Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network (DIHN) are now Families Moving Forward.

Why they did it: Genesis Home, an emergency shelter, wanted to move families more quickly into permanent housing. DIHN, a network of faith-based institutions, sought a site to conduct its work and leverage its strong volunteer base. Their new organization, Families Moving Forward, now has greater capacity to serve families’ needs while they stay in the shelter and to provide aftercare that helps families from becoming homeless again.

How they did it: Both organizations spent several months discussing and finalizing the merger. When Families Moving Forward launched in late 2015, the organization unveiled its new name, logo, mission, and website via a press release, newsletters, and strategic communications to volunteers, donors, and the public.

Why it was successful: Both Genesis Home and DIHN were well-established organizations that had served the community for decades, so reminding people about the Families Moving Forward merger is still an act in progress. “It’s really hard when you have two organizations that have been operating for 20-25 years and everyone knows those names,” says Aubrey Thorlakson, Development Associate for Families Moving Forward. The organization knows that it must continually communicate its new mission and name–for as long as it takes. “We’re doing different things, including a special new dinner event, to get our name out to volunteers, donors, and the greater Durham community,” she says.

3. Pledge 1% Colorado

 In 2014, the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado co-founded Pledge 1%, a global platform designed to inspire early-stage corporate philanthropy. Two years later, the Foundation rebranded itself as Pledge 1% Colorado to better align with its well-known platform.

Why they did it: Rebranding allowed the Foundation to strategically coordinate with the Pledge 1% platform and simultaneously unveil new programmatic offerings.

How they did it: The Foundation sent announcements via email, social media, newsletters, and its website to the hundreds of companies participating in its network.

Why it was successful: The new Pledge 1% Colorado logo and website perfectly mimic the branding of Pledge 1%, tying the two together visually. Because the rebranding took place only two years after the launch of Pledge 1%, there was sufficient time for both brands to grow together and for participants and the public to begin associating the two.

To further increase your organizational capacity, join The INS Group’s “Unleash the ‘Inner Fundraiser’ in Your Board of Directors” webinar on November 8, 2017 (2 – 3 pm). Click here to register.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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What Are the 5 Key Components of Collective Impact?

When using a Collective Impact model, organizations from different sectors will agree to solve a specific social problem using a common agenda, aligning their efforts, and using common measures of success. Here are the 5 key components for success to the Collective Impact approach:

  1. Common Agenda: Participants must have shared vision for change or common agenda that includes mutual understanding of the problem and a shared approach to solving it.
  2. Shared Measurement System: In order to bring consistency, clarity, and legitimacy to the endeavor, it is necessary to form a shared measurement system for data collection.
  3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities: Collective Impact requires that each participant undertakes a specific set of activities that support and synchronize with actions of others.
  4. Continuous Communication: Participants need to be in constant communication to use Collective Impact effectively. Be patient. It may take months to build the trust required to efficiently work together.
  5. Backbone Support Organization: A backbone organization is needed to plan, manage, facilitate, organize, coordinate, communicate, provide technology and communications support, data collection and reporting, handle administrative and logistical issues, and provide adaptive leadership such as framing the issue in a way that presents opportunities and difficulties.



Collaboration for Impact:

Collective Impact Forum:

FSG Reimagining Social Change:

Want to learn more organizational development strategies? Join The INS Group’s “Unleash the ‘Inner Fundraiser’ in Your Board of Directors” webinar on November 8, 2017 (2 – 3 pm ET). Click here to register.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Donors, Fund Development, Fundraising, Nonprofit Management

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What Are the True Costs of Burnout for Nonprofits?

Burnout occurs in every sector, but it has a special reputation among nonprofits. Google “nonprofit burnout” and you’ll find a book-length list of articles dedicated to preventing or managing this all-too-common occurrence.

Yet while the human costs of burnout have been well explored–low morale, health-damaging stress, job dissatisfaction—many nonprofits do not consider the significant cultural and financial costs that accompany burnout. If nonprofits want to recruit and retain the best changemakers, why do we continue to allow burnout to be the unaddressed elephant in the room?

Below are some fascinating facts about burnout and how it affects organizations—as well as tools that organizational leaders can use to address it (instead of expecting employees to manage their stress away).

Burnout costs nonprofits thousands of dollars in lost staff each year. When an employee leaves, it takes an estimated six to nine months of that worker’s salary for the organization to find, train, and hire a replacement. But burnout becomes doubly expensive the more experience, training, and skills that an employee has. For example, a CEO making $100,000 a year costs $213,000 to replace (213% of the employee’s original salary). Given this reality, it makes sense for nonprofits to invest significant efforts in retaining their senior-level staff so that vital knowledge and skillsets are not lost.

But keep in mind: even the youngest, most enthusiastic staff members suffer from burnout, too. Work with your staff to devise strategies for keeping all levels of staff engaged, balanced, and feeling appreciated–and then give them the autonomy to carry out those ideas.

Burnout “sickens” an office’s culture. People notice when their coworkers become unhappy and change their outputs. The Wall Street Journal reports that “bad behavior, such as anger, laziness, and incompetence, is remarkably contagious.” In addition,  a study of nurses working in intensive care found that those who heard their colleagues complain about burnout were significantly more likely to experience it themselves.

Work with your staff, particularly managers, to identify signs of burnout and create a formal plan for addressing it. Psychology Today notes that burnout is “a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, feelings of ineffectiveness, and lack of accomplishment.” While not all burnout is caused exclusively by professional stress, naming and acknowledging it can be a powerful first step in letting employees know they are supported. Organizations that work to mitigate burnout early on can reduce turnover and maintain a healthy office culture. 

3 Tools for Nipping Burnout in the Bud

  • Incorporating this stress-performance curve into weekly supervision meetings is a useful way to visualize, quantify, and discuss employees’ needs and workloads.
  • This mobile app allows employees to capture their work demands, office environment, and job satisfaction–and then create a customized action plan to share with supervisors.
  • This burnout self-test can help employees gauge how close they are to becoming burned out. 

    Your nonprofit, faith-based organization, or government agency can achieve greater capacity when you participate in The INS Group webinars. Visit our website for the latest lineup.

Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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Is Your Nonprofit Ready to Take on Social Entrepreneurship?

Multiple nonprofits have successfully become social enterprises to create new revenue streams and further their mission. Girl Scouts of the USA sells cookies and empowers girls, Juma Ventures operates concessions stands and employs economically disadvantaged teens, and the Women’s Bean Project hires women with backgrounds of chronic unemployment to manufacture gourmet goods.

Social enterprise means using the power of the marketplace to solve social problems—but there are important considerations that nonprofits should make before they should venture into this arena.

When is an organization ready to become a social enterprise?
Nonprofits should demonstrate three readiness factors: organizational commitment and preparedness, organizational strengths that translate into opportunities, and a sufficient base of customers who are able to pay for services or goods.

Social enterprise is a careful balance of using business to help an organization reach its mission and financial goals. Successful organizations will show alignment with mission and assets, a business mindset, and a balance between focus and flexibility. Social enterprise is no small undertaking–but it is one that can reap benefits with proper planning and preparation.

What are the benefits and risks?
There are a number of benefits and risks to creating a social enterprise with regards to an organization’s mission, operations, and finances. While becoming a social enterprise can generate new sources of revenue and diversify funding streams, capital and start-up funding are significant expenses–with no guarantee of success. A recent survey found that revenue across social enterprises varies widely, with the most successful organizations being those that have been around the longest (not surprisingly).

Another risk in creating a social enterprise is how that shift will be perceived by funders and the general public. Organizations may face difficulty balancing both their mission and money, causing mission drift from their core activities to those that support the social enterprise. In addition, traditional funders may reduce their support over concerns about significant organizational shifts.

However, successful organizations are those that take accountability for achieving their social objectives, using business tools and strategic thinking to ensure that staff and leadership are prepared to take on this new challenge. A spirit of innovation, accountability, and embracing results can increase cost efficiency and effectiveness and bring a nonprofit to new levels of impact.

Resources for Creating a Social Enterprise

To further increase your organizational capacity, join The INS Group’s “Unleash the ‘Inner Fundraiser’ in Your Board of Directors” webinar on November 7, 2017 (2 – 3 pm). Click here to register.

Posted in Capacity Building, Donors, Fund Development, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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Is #GivingTuesday Dead?

Launched in 2012 to kickstart the holiday giving season, Giving Tuesday has become a fundraising phenomenon in the U.S. and beyond. In 2016, donors from 98 countries and territories participated, bringing in $168 million dollars online.

But is Giving Tuesday becoming too popular as a fundraising strategy among nonprofits? Jason Parker, a communications and development consultant, has mixed feelings about the day. “The market is flooded on Giving Tuesday,” he says. “One of the most common mistakes that small organizations in particular make is assuming there will magically be people out there who, if they just see a Facebook post or email, will donate because it’s Giving Tuesday,” he says. In a 2015 study conducted by the John Templeton Foundation, a mere 18% of Americans said they were familiar with Giving Tuesday, compared to 93% who knew about Black Friday.

However, many nonprofits had success last Giving Tuesday–particularly those that combined their ask with matching grants or used the day to engage new audiences. Rebecca DeLuca, Assistant Director of Communications at Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts, targeted her organization’s Giving Tuesday appeal at young, first-time donors. “Giving Tuesday is a day for many young donors to get behind, to feel a part of something bigger,” she says. “We had 68 new donors on Giving Tuesday this year and increased our total number of donors by 68%. So while we aren’t making lots more money necessarily, we are pulling younger donors into the fold,” DeLuca reports.

So, should your nonprofit should make an ask on Giving Tuesday? Check out what different organizations tried in 2016:

  • A day of thanks. Embrace an attitude of gratitude and give thanks to your clients, volunteers, and supporters. Ask Board members to make phone calls to donors about the impact of your organization’s programs and services. These kinds of efforts can be a meaningful and memorable way to engage your supporters while celebrating the spirit of Giving Tuesday, says Parker. “Giving Tuesday can be a great opportunity to raise awareness, share information, and generate a low-cost but high-impact touch point,” he notes.
  • Ask donors to support a small, specific project. Modest requests benefiting distinct projects can be a great way to make your organization stand out in the Giving Tuesday crowd. For example, encourage donors to sponsor a bilingual home library for a low-income family, or ask supporters to help you raise the remaining $2,500 needed to build a new computer lab for elderly adults. By setting a reasonable fundraising goal that has a clear outcome, your nonprofit can compel supporters to act immediately and feel that even a small gift is worthwhile.
  • Incorporate Giving Tuesday into your End-of-Year Giving plan. Giving Tuesday doesn’t have to take over your fundraising plans or require a lot of effort. Plan two social media posts for the day or purchase a day-long social media ad. Send out your organization’s monthly newsletter on the morning of Giving Tuesday and include a small ask. Or, ask supporters to give their time or donations in lieu of a financial gift. Most importantly, be strategic in your planning so that you don’t overwhelm your development staff–or make too many end-of-year asks of your supporters. “The most successful organizations don’t treat Giving Tuesday as an isolated event or campaign,” says Parker. “They tend to treat it as a larger component of their development strategy or plan.”

All in all, Giving Tuesday 2016 raised 31% more than Giving Tuesday 2015–so this fundraising phenomenon is far from dead. Be creative and strategic in your Giving Tuesday campaign and your organization can enjoy a multitude of benefits that extend well beyond this one day.

Gain more capacity-building insights when you participate in The INS Group webinars. Check our website for the latest schedule.

Posted in Capacity Building, Fund Development, Fundraising, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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Client Spotlight: Center for Inquiry-Based Learning

For more than 15 years, the Center for Inquiry-Based Learning (CIBL), a Durham-based nonprofit, has provided STEM kits, STEM program consulting, and professional development to teachers and schools across North Carolina. But in 2014, CIBL’s leadership realized they had a problem.

Earlier that year, CIBL had begun to see an ominous shift in its funding streams. As schools cut services and local funds dwindled, the organization realized it needed to find additional sources of revenue. “We figured we could either watch our old model of fee-for-service continue to drop off or we could do something about it and learn about fundraising and grant writing,” says Mara Thomas, CIBL’s Business Manager. “That’s when we called Ruth Peebles at The INS Group.”

Over the next year, The INS Group worked closely with CIBL to assess its existing funding sources, conduct grant research, and develop a core proposal. Since CIBL staff had limited experience engaging funders, The INS Group provided strategies for building relationships with potential donors while simultaneously providing feedback on CIBL’s first proposal drafts. The INS Group also guided CIBL in creating individual donor campaigns and new marketing materials.

The results? “Since working with The INS Group, we have seen our fundraising from grants go from $0 to nearly 14% of our revenue,” says Thomas. CIBL has cultivated relationships with multiple funders at local and national levels and learned the importance of communicating with potential funders before submitting proposals. “We have started to develop partnerships and are finding more meaningful and inspiring ways to talk about what we do,” Thomas says. “We’re finding the relationships and the improved messaging to be key components of our success.”

From engaging its Board of Directors in fundraising to learning the basic mechanics of writing a grant proposal, CIBL’s partnership with The INS Group has been enormously valuable for the organization. “The grant writing process was intimidating at first, but now we have so much more confidence,” reports Thomas. “Ruth was incredibly professional and encouraging. If she could help us begin to turn this ship around, she could help anyone.”

Learn more about The INS Group’s suite of innovative solutions for nonprofits.

To further increase your organizational capacity, join The INS Group’s “Unleash the ‘Inner Fundraiser’ in Your Board of Directors” webinar on November 7, 2017 (2 – 3 pm). Click here to register.


Posted in Capacity Building, Communications, Donors, Fund Development, Fundraising, Marketing/Public Relations, Nonprofit Management, Strategic Planning

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