nell headshot

What are the most critical threats and opportunities facing nonprofits, and how should they respond to these risks? In this podcast, I interview Nell Edgington from SocialVelocity.net. We talk about many important topics, including the following:

– how the nonprofit landscape has become more competitive;

– why nonprofits need a theory of change;

– the need for metrics;

– how and when to engage in strategic planning

– how nonprofits can determine whether they are applying best practices;

– the benefits of a financial model assessment; and

– how to address common risks involving a board of directors.

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During the interview, I refer to Nell’s post about nonprofits’ theory of change, which is available here. Nell refers to Ann Goggins-Gregory and Don Howard’s 2009 article, The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle. Nell mentions that a group of nonprofit thought leaders have created a list of core capabilities of high-performance nonprofits, called The Performance Imperative, available here. Nell also recommends three books: Mindset, by Carol Dweck; The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield; and The Networked Nonprofit, by Beth Kanter.



Here are the questions raised during our interview:


About Social Velocity [0:56]

For the listeners who don’t know, what is Social Velocity?

What made you create Social Velocity?

What’s an ideal engagement for Social Velocity?

Do you have a sweet spot in terms of nonprofit annual revenues, geographic location, or type of nonprofit?

What kinds of interventions does Social Velocity offer?


Changes in nonprofit landscape/nonprofit risks [4:40]

You have been involved with nonprofits for many years. How do you think the challenges facing nonprofits have changed?

How often do you post to Social Velocity?

What are some of the top threats faced by nonprofits today?

I always speak of risk as involving threats and opportunities. What are some of the top opportunities facing nonprofits?

Nonprofits tend to live hand to mouth. Why is that?

What effect does the hand-to-mouth approach have on nonprofit sustainability?

Nonprofits use other people’s money and face a world of risks, but very few nonprofits have a formal risk management program to identify and address risks before they arise. Why do you think that is?


Strategic Planning [20:30]

I know you work with nonprofits on strategic planning. Tell me about the conversation you have with a nonprofit who comes to you wanting you to perform strategic planning with them.

So let’s say you agree to a strategic planning engagement. What information do you ask a nonprofit to gather before you begin the strategic planning process?

How do you help nonprofits deal with the difference in awareness and commitment between staff and board members?

I advise nonprofits that strategic planning is not as effective if they don’t have a process in place to identify and prioritize their threats and opportunities. In other words, some kind of formal risk inventory – more than a SWOT analysis – is necessary before you know what the organization’s top issues are. How would you respond to that?

What kinds of exercises do you use in strategic planning to uncover risks?


Path to improvement [29:15]

How would a nonprofit know if its practices are on the forefront of nonprofit management and governance? Is there a checklist, or could we identify some of those considerations right now?

Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People talks about “first things first.” What are the first things a nonprofit should focus on in trying to improve its performance?


Financial Model Assessment [32:12]

One of your offerings at Social Velocity is a Financial Model Assessment. Can you tell our listeners what this is and why it’s helpful for nonprofits?

How long does a Financial Model Assessment take?


Board Questions [34:48]

Nonprofit boards are filled with volunteers. How can a volunteer board build board engagement?

Are there any recurring risks you tend to see in nonprofit boards?

What tools do you suggest nonprofit boards use to address those risks?


Broader Questions [40:08]

Nell, what are the most important new ideas you’re working on right now?

If you had to choose three books to recommend to a nonprofit leader who wanted to improve her organization, what would those be?

If you had a chance to take a sabbatical for six months, what would you do, and why?

Nell, how should our listeners find out more information about you and Social Velocity (website, Twitter, etc.)?


Contact Information.

Nell Edgington can be reached at socialvelocity.net and on Twitter as @NEdgington.